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Movers & Shapers, January 2017

Spotlight on Montgomery County

Elton Dean

Elton Dean

Margaret Taylor Allen

Allen is superintendent of Montgomery Public Schools. She is a veteran educator, working first as a paraprofessional, then as a teacher and administrator and heading initiatives in career development and leadership. She holds master’s degrees in elementary education and early childhood education, both with an emphasis on students with disabilities, from Auburn University at Montgomery, certification in education administration from Alabama State University, certification from the National Staff Development Council and the national superintendent’s organization. 

Bruce Crawford 

Crawford is CEO for Montgomery’s East Region Consumer & Commercial Banking Division of BBVA Compass Bank. He is a graduate of Auburn University, attended the Louisiana State University Graduate School of Banking of the South and received a Certified Cash Manager designation from the Treasury Management Association. He is chairman of the Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce; a member of Committee of 100, Kiwanis Club and Leadership Montgomery; and has served key leadership roles with the Montgomery Area Business Committee for the Arts, Montgomery Symphony Orchestra and the Alabama Shakespeare Festival. 

USAF Brigadier 
Gen. (Ret.) Edward F. Crowell 

Crowell is president and CEO of VT Kinetics, parent company for VT MAK based in Massachusetts and VT Miltope based in Montgomery. While VT Kinetics is a holding company, VT Miltope is a leading manufacturer of computers, servers, storage, network peripherals and airborne solutions. His 25-year corporate career is built on 35 years of Air Force service. He retired from the USAF at Maxwell AFB in March 2009, where he had served as commandant of the Air War College and vice commander of Air University. He holds an undergraduate degree from Alabama State University and graduate degrees from Troy University, Auburn University and several military programs.

Elton Dean

Dean is in his fifth term as chairman of the Montgomery County Commission. Among his accomplishments is implementing the county’s back-to-school and weather preparedness sales tax holidays and the Montgomery Public Schools 1-cent sales tax in 2001 that has generated more than $350 million for the school system. He is a graduate of Selma University, Alabama State University and the Alabama Real Estate Institute. He is a retired manager of Western Electric/AT&T/Lucent Technologies, a former manager of Firestone Tire and Rubber Co. and owner of Dean Realty and 21st Century Hair Studio. He is active in the community, serving as a board member on several civic organizations, and has been honored for public service. 

Jeff Helms

Helms is the director of communications and public relations for Alfa Insurance and the Alabama Farmers Federation, in addition to serving as general manager of Creative Consultants Inc. Helms is a graduate of Auburn University, and earned an Outstanding Alumni Award from the University’s College of Agriculture in 2014. He serves on the board of Rainbow Omega, which provides vocational and residential programs to adults with developmental disabilities, chairs Alabama PALS, a nonprofit dedicated to anti-litter programs, and is active at Vaughn Park Church of Christ. Helms and his wife, Laurie, are also active with the Montgomery Area Down Syndrome Outreach Group. 

Lt. Gen. Steven Kwast


Lt. Gen. Steven Kwast 

Kwast is commander and president, Air University, Maxwell Air Force Base, leading the intellectual and leadership center of the U.S. Air Force. He has commanded at the squadron, group and wing levels. A graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy, he holds a master’s in public policy from John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. He is an Air Force command pilot and has worked at the Pentagon and in Afghanistan on joint assignments. 

Jake Kyser 

Kyser is a lifelong resident of Montgomery and president of Jerry Kyser Builder Inc. A graduate of Auburn University, he has maintained an active Alabama real estate license since 1996 and is the qualifying broker for Kyser Property Management Co. Inc. He also is co-owner of Central Restaurant in downtown Montgomery’s Alley Entertainment District. Civic involvement includes the Greater Montgomery Home Builders Association Board, Associated General Contractors of Alabama, Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce Committee of 100, Wright Flyers and Troy University Advisory Council of Montgomery, and a board member for the Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce, River Bank & Trust and the Montgomery Area Council on Aging. His current project is a Staybridge Suites Hotel in downtown Montgomery. 

Wiley Lott 

Lott is director of external affairs and economic development for Southeast Alabama Gas in Montgomery. Formerly with Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Lott was responsible for the creation of the distribution center, real estate and economic and community development departments while director for the U.S.  Distribution Center & Special Projects Development and Alternative Use Program for the company’s previously occupied stores. While at Wal-Mart, Lott developed more than 100 million square feet of distribution center space and helped create more than 100,000 jobs. Lott serves on the boards for a number of national, state and local organizations. He is a graduate of Troy University and earned his law degree from the University of Arkansas.

Mac McLeod 

McLeod is the director of development for the city of Montgomery. He came to the city two years ago after a 40-year career in banking, insurance and real estate development. McLeod is active with the Montgomery Education Foundation, Salvation Army and YMCA. He has served in several leadership roles with many nonprofit organizations over the years and also has served as the chairman of the Chamber of Commerce and the Committee of 100. A native of Montgomery, he is a graduate of Sidney Lanier High School and the University of Montevallo.

Ellen McNair

McNair is senior vice president of corporate development for the Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce. She has recruited dozens of companies, including both Hyundai Motors Corp. and Hyundai Heavy Industries. She is a graduate of Auburn University and the Economic Development Institute at the University of Oklahoma, is a Certified Economic Developer and served a fellowship with the U.S. Department of the Interior. She is a past president of the Economic Development Association of Alabama and is involved in the International Economic Development Council. She is the 2014 recipient of the David R. Echols Distinguished Service Award, presented by the Alabama Department of Commerce for exemplary achievement in economic development.

Riley Roby


Riley Roby

Roby is the managing partner of Balch & Bingham’s Montgomery office. He regularly counsels individuals and businesses on transactional, tax and regulatory planning matters. A graduate of Rhodes College, Cumberland School of Law at Samford University, and the University of Florida, Roby serves on the boards for Sterling Bank, the Central Alabama Community Foundation and the Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce. Roby previously chaired the boards of the Montgomery Estate Planning Council, the Montgomery Humane Society, the Boys & Girls Clubs of the River Region and the Center for Entrepreneurial Development.

Todd Strange 

Strange has been mayor of Montgomery since 2009, coming to the job after serving as chair of the Montgomery County Commission and as CEO, president and co-owner of Blount Strange Automotive Group. Earlier, as director of the Alabama Development Office, precursor of the Alabama Department of Commerce, he helped bring Hyundai to Montgomery. Strange has also served key roles with Blount International Ltd., Blount Development Corp. and South Central Bell Co. (now AT&T). Community activities include chairman of the Capital City Club, board member of the Montgomery Business Committee for the Arts and the University of Montevallo Trustees. He is a graduate of the University of Montevallo. 

Carl Stockton

Stockton is chancellor of Auburn University at Montgomery. In his 32 years in higher education, as both administrator and faculty member, Stockton has raised more than $100 million in grants and capital support for the universities and programs he has served. His leadership and support have increased degree offerings for students and research and professional development opportunities for faculty, as well as cultivated partnerships with industry and international universities. He holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Florida and a Ph.D. from the University of Tennessee. 

Liz Sutton

Sutton is president of Alabama World Travel, a Virtuoso Member Travel Agency, and Sutton & Associates, a division specializing in planning customized travel incentives. She holds certification within the industry, where she has worked for 40 years and is recognized as one of the most powerful women in travel and top travel advisor by Travel + Leisure magazine. She has been recognized as one of the five most outstanding Jaycees in America. She has served as the spokesperson for American Express by appearing in a national ad campaign. She also is a motivational speaker. Sutton works with the Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce and is founder of Partners in Catholic Education, raising more than a million dollars for Catholic education. She is a charter member of the Small Business Resource Center and Women in Business.  

Lance Tatum 

Tatum is vice chancellor of Troy University Montgomery, following work there as vice chancellor for Global Campus, dean of the College of Education and Department Chair for the Department of Kinesiology and Health Promotion. After earning both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree from Troy State University, Tatum earned his Ph.D. from Florida State University. Tatum has served on a variety of statewide boards and commissions related to education, and served as the university’s faculty athletics representative to the National Collegiate Athletic Association. He currently serves on the Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce board, the Greater Montgomery YMCA board and the Pike Road Education Service Committee.

Galen Thackston


Galen Thackston

Thackston is regional president and serves on the board of Goodwyn, Mills and Cawood Inc., one of the largest multi-discipline architecture and engineering firms in the Southeast. Founded in Montgomery nearly 70 years ago, the firm has been instrumental in major economic development efforts, including recruitment of international corporations such as Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama, Golden Dragon Precise Copper Tube Group, Lakeside Steel Inc., Benteler Automotive, and most recently, German auto supplier Gerhardi Kunststofftechnik. Thackston serves on the Alabama Shakespeare Festival executive committee, Boys and Girls Club of the River Region board, E.A.T. South board and is a graduate of Leadership Montgomery. An Auburn University graduate, he is a registered professional engineer and environmental property assessor in Alabama and a LEED Green Associate.

Ken Upchurch

Upchurch is chairman and CEO of W.K. Upchurch Construction Co. Inc., a third generation construction company that specializes in commercial and high-end custom residential construction throughout the Southeast. Upchurch and his business partner, Percy Thomas, are also the managing members of  TCU Consulting Services LLC. Active in the community, Upchurch serves leadership roles at Jackson Hospital, Huntingdon College, the Montgomery Academy, the Montgomery Education Foundation, the Montgomery Planning Commission and others. Upchurch was named YMCA Man of the Year in 2006 and Montgomery Advertiser Citizen of the Year in 2012. 

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