June 1, 2023–Mark Berte / Executive Director, Alabama Coastal Foundation

Mark Berte’s Biographical Information
In October of 2011, Mark Berte was asked to serve as the Executive Director of the
Alabama Coastal Foundation (ACF). Prior to serving at the ACF, Mark was Director of
Community Engagement for the Mobile Area Education Foundation and the Executive
Director of the Alabama Citizens for Constitutional Reform Foundation.
Mark received his bachelor’s degree at Birmingham Southern College and his master’s
degree in Public Affairs from the University of Texas. He is a graduate of both
Leadership Mobile and of Leadership Alabama.
Mark serves on the boards of several organizations including Dauphin Way United
Methodist Church, the Islands of Perdido Foundation, the South Alabama Coalition of
Nonprofits, the League of Women Voters of Mobile, and the Friends of the Bon Secour
National Wildlife Refuge.
Mark and his wife, Leigh Ann, who is a professor at Spring Hill College, have a twenty
one year-old daughter named Julianne and a sixteen year-old daughter named Linden

May 25, 2023–Dr. Marty Heslin / USA Health Mitchell Cancer Institute

Marty Heslin, MD, MSHA is the Executive Director of the USA Health Mitchell Cancer Institute at the University of South Alabama. Prior to this position, Dr. Heslin was the Associate Director of the O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center, the Executive vice chair of the Department of Surgery, the Chief of the Medical staff and was the James P. Hayes Jr. Endowed Professor in Gastrointestinal Oncology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. His clinical interests include hepatobiliary, pancreatic, colorectal and endocrine surgery and his research has focused on a variety of topics from surgical outcomes to physician management. Heslin graduated from Cornell University in microbiology and obtained his medical degree from SUNY Health Science Center at Syracuse. He completed a general surgery residency at New York University Medical Center. Following the completion of a surgical oncology fellowship at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, including two years as a research fellow, he joined the UAB faculty in 1996. Heslin holds a master’s degree in health administration from UAB. He is author or co-author on more than 120 publications and 10 book chapters. As the leading cancer research facility on the upper Gulf Coast, the Mitchell Cancer Institute serves as a center for advanced services in the treatment of cancer with radiation, surgical and medical oncology. The MCI operates in three locations in Mobile and Baldwin counties.

May 18, 2023–Michael Pierce / CEO, Mobile Housing Authority “The Changing Landscape of Public Housing”

Michael E. Pierce is a 1991 graduate of Tulane University where he received his Bachelor of Science degree in Business Management.  While at Tulane, he excelled as a student athlete becoming Tulane’s All Purpose Yardage Leader and Pre-Season Street & Smith All-American candidate in 1989 after having graduated from Murphy High School in Mobile Alabama as the All-Time Leading Rusher three years earlier.  Pierce was invited to join the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles as a free agent in 1990.  Unfortunately, a lingering knee injury caused his retirement before his NFL career could begin.


Michael is Chief Executive Officer of the Mobile Housing Authority (MHA).  He has total responsibility for administering, managing, maintaining, planning, and directing the Agency’s programs.  Pierce is the Agency’s primary liaison with the Board of Commissioners (BOC), HUD, and state and local entities.  He has contact with a broad range of individuals including: the news media; BOC; federal, state, and local government personnel; social service personnel; housing residents; the general public; various special interest groups; and all levels of Agency personnel.  MHA currently oversee 4,506 HCV (Section 8) vouchers and 3,278 Public Housing Units.


Pierce served as Executive Director of the MLK Avenue Redevelopment Corporation (MLK) for 25 years before taking over MHB.  His primary responsibility was to develop and implement a comprehensive community and economic redevelopment program in the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Avenue community.  Since 1993 MLK invested HUD HOME Funds in excess of $15 million to construct 137 new affordable homes benefiting several hundred Low to Moderate-Income Mobilians.  MLKARC has also invested $3.4 million to develop commercial retail space on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Avenue and Broad Street.  The retail centers were developed to provide area residents convenient access to goods, services and employment opportunities.  Renaissance Plaza on Broad Street was a catalyst for the development of a Dollar Tree Store on an adjacent parcel and a Family Dollar Store across the street.


Pierce is also active in civic and community affairs.  He is a member of the Board of Directors of the Infirmary Health System, Member of the Whitney New Markets Advisory Board, Former Co-Chair of Mayor Sandy Stimpson’s Transition Team, Past-Chairman of the Board of Directors of Commonwealth National Bank and the Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce and Past-President of the Rotary Club of Mobile.  He serves on the Board of the Mobile Arts & Sports Association, was named Senior Bowl Game Captain for 2018-19 and is chairman of the Senior Bowl Hall of Fame Committee. He has also served on the Board of Directors of the Mobile Airport Authority and the Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce.


Pierce is married to wife, Daphne; they have two sons, Michael, Jr. and Myles, and two pets Simone and Aspen and one grand pup Princeton.

May 11, 2023–Chris Curry / Mobile Airport Authority



Thomas “Chris” Curry serves as the President of the Mobile Airport Authority. For the past 5 years, Curry has placed airline recruitment, changing roles of Mobile Regional and Downtown Airports, and expanding business opportunities on the Mobile Aeroplex at the top of his priorities.


Prior to his tenure with MAA, Curry was the Director of Aviation for the City of Tallahassee, where he guided the transition of the airport from a regional to international facility. He also served as Executive Director of the Collier County Airport Authority and Project Manager of Airspace and Procedure Design for the Boeing Company.


Curry began his military career in the United States Air Force in 1982 as an air traffic controller and retired in 2001. During his tenure, he served as manager of air traffic control radar, tower, and airfield management.


A native of Savannah, Georgia, Mr. Curry earned his associate degree in airway science from the Community College of the Air Force, Montgomery, AL. He also earned a bachelor’s degree from Embry Riddle Aeronautical University in professional aeronautics.

and how it can transform our region.

May 4, 2023–Michon Trent / Gulf Coast Family Center

Michon Trent Bio

For 17 years, Michon Trent has contributed her time and talent to building stronger coalitions with Baldwin and Mobile Counties agencies. She has been an active member in children’s policy initiatives, helping to push for licensure of and higher standards in childcare agencies while fighting for access to free preschool for children statewide.


She worked to re-open the Baldwin County Boys and Girls Clubs and has advocated for people experiencing homelessness along the Gulf Coast. Through this work, Michon created a yearlong work group and hosted a homeless summit highlighting positive results. Michon also organized a roundtable discussion to address the continued needs of the homeless community.


A mother of two, Michon is a connector, and she is willing to share her expertise when needed. She is also a thought partner to those working to solve complex community problems by putting together people who would not normally interact to share creative solutions.


Michon has served in many community leadership roles, including service on the statewide boards of Alabama Humanities Foundation as Chairman, Chair of Fund Development of Voices for Alabama’s Children’s, and on the local boards of Bank On South Alabama, Distinguished Young Women, United Way Women’s Initiative, and Mobile Community Action, Inc., Homeless Coalition Alabama Gulf Coast Continuum of Care and has served on the boards of Boys and Girls Clubs of South Alabama, Providence Hospital Foundation, Family Promise and Historic Mobile Preservation Society. She also served on the board of Family Promise and was a church coordinator for five years.


Her education supports her career path as Michon graduated with a bachelor’s degree in social work from Azusa Pacific University and a master’s degree in Social Welfare from the University of California at Los Angeles. She attended Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy and Fundraising School and is certified as a School Social Work Professional.


Apr. 27, 23: James Barber / Chief of Staff, City of Mobile

Chief of Staff James Barber served with the United States Marine Corps prior to beginning his 28-year career with the Mobile Police Department. During that time, Barber was assigned to various specialized units within MPD, including Narcotics and Vice, Intelligence, Organized Crime, Drug Enforcement, and Internal Affairs. He rose through the ranks to become an executive officer before being appointed Chief of Police in 2013. As Chief, Barber implemented an Intelligence-led policing model that targeted criminals, not communities — leading to some of the lowest total crime rates the City of Mobile had recorded in nearly four decades. 


Barber is credited for launching two MPD programs that are now nationally recognized. The first is Bridging the Gap, which brings young people together with law enforcement officers to teach kids how to best conduct themselves when encountering the police in various circumstances. Barber also launched the Second Chance or Else (SCORE) program, which works to connect low-level, non-violent drug offenders to community resources instead of arresting them. The goal of the program is to get participants out of the drug scene and into the workforce.  Both programs are still used today by MPD and other law enforcement agencies around the country.


Barber was appointed Public Safety Director for the City of Mobile in 2017. In this new role, Director Barber oversaw MPD as well as the Mobile Fire-Rescue Department. Under his direction, a new leadership team was established at MFRD, which lead the department from ISO-3 to ISO-1. This is a fire service rating only achieved by 432 of the more than 45,000 fire departments in the U.S.


As Public Safety Director, Barber also sought to address the problem of repeat violent offenders being released on bail only to commit more acts of violence in the community. That quickly grew into a statewide effort to change Alabama’s Constitution. Working with Rep. Chip Brown, Barber helped draft a bill that would give judges more flexibility to withhold bail from clearly dangerous defendants who are likely to re-offend. That bill would later be named “Aniah’s Law” in honor of Aniah Blanchard, who was kidnapped and killed by a man out on bail for charges of kidnapping and attempted murder. In 2021, Aniah’s Law passed the Alabama Legislature with bipartisan support. It was ratified by an overwhelming majority of voters on November 8, 2022.


In 2020, Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson appointed Barber to serve as his Chief of Staff. In his current role, Chief Barber oversees all the City of Mobile’s departments and executive directors. Despite a broader focus, he maintains a core belief that the fundamental purpose of government is public safety.

Apr. 20, 23: Rob Holbert / Co-Publisher & Managing Editor, Lagniappe

Rob Holbert is co-publisher and managing editor of Lagniappe, Mobile’s weekly newspaper. Rob helped found the newspaper after a career that started as a police reporter and columnist at the Mississippi Press in Pascagoula. He followed that with a stint as a deputy press secretary for then-U.S. Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott in Washington, D.C.


After leaving Capitol Hill, Rob worked ghost-writing opinion articles for publication in some of the nation’s largest newspapers. From 1999 – Aug. 2010 he was the faculty adviser for the University of South Alabama student newspaper, The Vanguard, and in 2002 started Lagniappe with his business partner Ashley Trice. The paper now prints 25,000 copies every week, is distributed throughout Mobile and the Eastern Shore and is one of Alabama’s largest weekly newspapers.


According to Scarborough Research, Lagniappe has nearly 80,000 print readers each week and an additional 40,000 readers a month online and in newsletters, and 37,000 followers on Facebook.


Rob has won numerous statewide and regional awards for column writing and was a finalist for the 2022 Association of Alternative Newsmedia’s David Carr Award for investigative reporting.


Apr. 13, 23–Todd Lasseigne Ph.D. / Executive Director, Bellingrath Gardens & Home

Dr. Lasseigne serves as Executive Director Bellingrath Gardens and Home, a position he started in September 2020.  He joins a team of board members and professional staff working to bring forward the legacy of Walter and Bessie Bellingrath at their renowned estate and gardens located on the Fowl River south of Mobile.


Prior to coming to Bellingrath, Todd was President and CEO of Tulsa Botanic Garden (Tulsa, Oklahoma), an institution he led for over nine years, working to build it from the ground up with over $20 million raised and invested during his tenure.  Dr. Lasseigne also served as the founding Executive Director of Paul J. Ciener Botanical Garden (Kernersville, North Carolina) from 2005 through early 2011, and as Assistant Director of the JC Raulston Arboretum (Raleigh, North Carolina) for 5 years.


Todd is a highly respected plantsman, horticulturist, and public garden leader.  He is widely recognized as a leading horticulture expert among nursery professionals and in the public garden world.  He has delivered invited lectures across the U.S., in Japan, South Korea, and Mexico.  Todd has visited over 450 gardens around the world during his career.  He lives with his wife (Heather) and five cats in Grand Bay, Alabama.

Apr. 6, 23–Cart Blackwell / President, Friends of Magnolia Cemetery

Cartledge Weeden Blackwell, III


Cartledge Weeden Blackwell, III, is an architectural historian and the curator of the Mobile Carnival Museum. Blackwell is a six-generation native of Selma, Alabama. He obtained undergraduate degrees in art history and historic preservation from the College of Charleston in 2005. In 2008, Cart received his Masters of Art in Architectural History from the University of Virginia. His scholarly focus is the history and culture of the American South. In 2020, Blackwell’s first book, Of People And Of Place: Portraiture In Alabama (1870-1945), Reconstruction To Modernism was published. That work, a commission of the Alabama Chapter of the National Society of Colonial Dames of America, is followed by Of Color and Light: The Life and Art of Artist-Designer Clara Weaver Parrish. The manuscript of the aforementioned book is in the hands of the University of Alabama Press and soon to be sent to academic readers. A third book on George B. Rogers is being coauthored with Thomas C. McGehee, curator of Bellingrath Gardens and Home. Blackwell’s writings have appeared in Alabama, Alabama Heritage, ARRIS, Mobile Bay Monthly, Access, and many museum catalogues. In addition to curatorship of the Mobile Carnival Museum and writing, Blackwell serves as the president of the Board of Trustees of the Friends of Magnolia Cemetery, a member of the Board of Trustees of the Cahawba Foundation, a board member of the Friends of Alabama Heritage, board member of the Friends of the Alabama Department of Archives and History, and a member of the Architectural Review Board (ARB) of the City of Mobile.

Mar. 30, 23–Helena Duncan / President & CEO, Business Council of Alabama

Helena Duncan Bio
Helena Thomas Duncan was born and raised in Opelika, AL and is the youngest of five
children. She received her Bachelor of Science in Finance degree from Auburn University
Duncan began her professional career as a teller at Southtrust Bank. Throughout her
career in the financial sector, Duncan was able to offer support to individuals and main street
businesses to help them succeed. In 1994, Duncan became Executive Vice President of Colonial
Bancgroup, Inc in Montgomery, AL. During her time at Colonial, she oversaw Human
Resources of over 5,000 employees in five states and was responsible for executive level
recruitment. Her additional responsibilities included directly managing corporate security;
development and management of private banking; and was a part of the group that prepared the
strategic plan and planned mergers and acquisitions.
In 2005, Duncan opened American Legacy Mortgage in Montgomery. As Owner and
Broker, she helped identify mortgage loan clients and find the best product to meet their needs,
while establishing and maintaining excellent relationships with real estate agents. Two years
later, Duncan joined First Tuskegee Bank in Montgomery as the Executive Vice President.
During her time at First Tuskegee, she was responsible for the branch growth of both loans and
deposits, and corporate governance relationships with federal, state, local supervisory authorities.
She also oversaw IT; operations; bank security; the compliance department; Human Resources;
and supervised all bank legal matters.
Prior to joining the team at BCA, Duncan was the Regional President of Liberty Bank &
Trust, where she was responsible for the overall growth, development, and safety of all Alabama
branches. Duncan joined BCA as Director of Strategic Operations and Growth, later moving to
Senior Vice President of Operations and Investor Relations. Her focus as BCA Senior Vice
President of Operations and Investor Relations was membership growth, which included member
satisfaction and enhancement of the BCA membership experience. She oversaw all functions of
Human Resources; Finance; Operations; and coordination of all communications, marketing, and
The veteran businesswoman began her role as BCA President and CEO in December
2022 and has continued to strengthen the organization’s advocacy efforts as the voice for the
Alabama business community.
Duncan was recently named a Yellowhammer ‘2022 Woman of Impact’ for her
influential role and contribution to business and the community across Alabama. She has served
as Chairman of the Board for Saint James School, as board member for the Montgomery
Chamber of Commerce, Child Protect, and Board of Controls Committee of 100. She currently
serves as a board member for Dixie Electric Cooperative, YMCA, the Montgomery Committee
of 100 and Synovus Bank.
Duncan is married to Clarence Duncan; they have two sons: CJ and Collin. Helena and
Clarence reside in Montgomery