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Movers & Shapers, November 2012

People making a difference in Baldwin County

Robert Craft

Robert Craft

Darrelyn Bender

Bender has served as president/CEO of the Eastern Shore Chamber of Commerce for 16 years. During her tenure, the chamber has become one of 22 in the nation to receive a three-star accreditation by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. She is a graduate of the Institute for Organization Management for Chambers of Commerce and of Leadership Baldwin County. She also has completed the Auburn Intensive Economic Development Course. She has served on several professional boards. In 2010, she worked with business organizations from across the Gulf Coast, forming the Gulf Coast Alliance for Economic and Environmental Resilience, a group committed to keeping communication open among businesses across the region and keeping businesses strong from Louisiana to Florida. 

Robert Craft

Craft, mayor of Gulf Shores since 2008, owns Craft Turf Farms, a 1,200-acre turf farm open since 1974. He also built Craft Farms, the popular Gulf Shores residential golf community, which includes nine residential villages, two Arnold Palmer-designed golf courses, a Courtyard by Marriott hotel and Cypress Point Condominiums. He also is a former Gulf Shores city councilman.

Beth Gendler

Gendler joined Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism in 2002. As vice president of sales, she and the other sales department members are responsible for bringing groups, meetings and conventions to the Alabama Gulf Coast. She also is responsible for sales and implementation of the Tourism office’s new Corporate Strategic Partnership program. She works closely with the company’s Southeastern Conference Sponsorship and helped arrange the 1st Annual SEC BeachFest in Gulf Shores in 2012. Gendler also is vice president of sales for the Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Sports Commission, developed in 2004. Prior to coming to the Gulf Coast, she lived in South Bend, IN and worked in advertising sales. She also worked with the Marriott Corp. in convention sales and in the mental health industry.

Sheila Hodges

Sheila Hodges

Hodges is sole owner and chairman of the board for SH Enterprises Inc., the umbrella company for CENTURY 21 Meyer Real Estate, Meyer Vacation Rentals and Meyer Services with operations in Alabama and Florida, plus Starr Textile Services, a commercial laundry and textile rental business serving four states. Hodges has acquired many designations, certifications and awards and serves on many boards and organizations. In 2010, she was named the Walton M. Vines Free Enterprise Person of the Year, the first female to receive this designation. Hodges recently received the Connecting Coastal Alabama Award. Meyer Vacation Rentals also was recently named as one of the Best Companies to Work for in Alabama and SH Enterprises was certified as a woman-owned business enterprise.

Leonard Kaiser

Kaiser is the founder and president of Kaiser Realty Inc., a leading vacation rental, property management and real estate sales company in Gulf Shores and Orange Beach. Founded in 1980, the business has received many awards for professional and community initiatives. A native of Baldwin County, Kaiser has been instrumental in the area’s tourism development and real estate sales for 35 years. Most recently, he introduced Cottages at Romar, a low-density beachfront residential community in Orange Beach. He is chairman of the board for Gulf Shores/Orange Beach Tourism, a state director of the Alabama Association of Realtors, and a board member for the Coastal Alabama Partnership and the Alabama Insurance Underwriters Association. Kaiser is past chair of the Alabama Gulf Coast Chamber of Commerce and the Baldwin County Association of Realtors, and a regional director for the American Heart Association.

Tim Kant

Kant, mayor of Fairhope since 2000, is the former city horticulturist and public works superintendent, where he oversaw several beautification projects that earned the city worldwide accolades. He also worked with the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission. As only the second mayor of the city, he has worked to manage growth while maintaining the city’s quality of life. Since 2000, the city has added a new library, a recreation center, a historical museum and more. He has received several awards for his planning work, is a member of several boards and organizations, and is a former volunteer fireman.

Tony Kennon

Tony Kennon

Kennon was elected mayor of Orange Beach in 2008. Earlier, he served on the Orange Beach Planning Commission and the City Council. Kennon, a native of Chickasaw in Mobile County, has been coming to Orange Beach since the 1960s. He is a graduate of the University of South Alabama with a degree in physical therapy and past owner of Forever Young Rehabilitation Services, now known as Encore Rehabilitation.

John Koniar

Koniar has been mayor of Foley since 2006. Prior to that, he served 30 years on the Foley City Council. He retired from Vulcan Inc. in 2008 and also worked at Shell Oil Co. He was a captain in the U.S. Air Force. He is a member of the Baldwin County Board of Mental Health and has served on the Coastal Resiliency Coalition, South Baldwin Education Foundation, the South Baldwin Chamber of Commerce, the Foley Optimist Club and the Foley American Cancer Society Crusade. In September, he was elected to another four-year term.

Lee Lawson

Lawson was named president and CEO of the Baldwin County Economic Development Alliance in June, filling the position left vacant by the retirement of Robert Ingram. Lawson is returning to BCEDA, having previously served as vice president of economic development, where he was responsible for marketing and the recruitment of new jobs and corporate investments. He also worked as an economic development representative for PowerSouth Energy Cooperative in Andalusia.

Herbert Malone Jr.

Malone has served as president/CEO of Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism since 1993. With more than two decades in the tourism industry along the Alabama Gulf Coast, he also has served as president/CEO of the Alabama Gulf Coast Chamber of Commerce and played a key role in the establishment of the Alabama Gulf Coast Convention and Visitors Bureau, now known as Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism. Prior to his tourism career, he was a business owner and served two terms on the Gulf Shores City Council.

William McLaughlin Jr.

McLaughlin is executive vice president of Gulf Health Hospitals and administrator of Thomas Hospital. He also develops new physician affiliations and service locations in Baldwin County for Infirmary Health. He previously served as vice president and administrator of North Baldwin Infirmary in Bay Minette. He joined Infirmary Health in 2006 with 25 years of experience in hospital administration at Sacred Heart Hospital in Pensacola, St. Joseph Medical Center in Maryland and Somerset Medical Center in New Jersey.

Mike McMillan

McMillan is the newly-elected mayor of Spanish Fort. Owner of McMillan Sales Inc., he has served as a Spanish Fort city councilman for eight years, four of those as chairman pro tempore. He is past chairman of the Spanish Fort Cooperative Improvement District, past vice chair of the Spanish Fort Planning Commission and North Baldwin United Way. He is a Spanish Fort Fire Department board member, D’Olive Watershed Advisory Committee member and serves on the Industrial Development Board for Baldwin and neighboring counties.

Charles Murphy

Charles Murphy

Murphy is beginning his sixth term as mayor of Robertsdale. He also served one term on the Robertsdale City Council. Retired from AT&T, he also served in the U.S. Navy. He is a member of the Robertsdale Rotary Club, where he received the Paul Harris Fellowship Award twice. Past president of the Alabama League of Municipalities, he has been active locally as a former chairman of the Baldwin County Mayors’ Association, former board member of the Baldwin County Economic Development Alliance, a board member of the Baldwin County Homeless Coalition, the executive board for Catholic Social Services and as a reader at Robertsdale Elementary School. 

Keith Newton

Newton is CEO of South Baldwin Regional Medical Center in Foley. He began his new position in January after serving as CFO and interim CEO at the hospital since May 2010. Prior to joining SBRMC he worked with Community Health

Ormand Thompson III

Thompson has served as administrator of North Baldwin Infirmary/Oakwood Center for Living since February 2010. Prior to that, he worked as an administrator at Infirmary West/Infirmary Long Term Acute Care Hospital, director of emergency department operations at Mobile Infirmary Medical Center and an administrator in physician practice management. He is a member of Leadership Mobile and the North Baldwin Chamber of Commerce board and is active with the Angel-Ride Foundation.

Donna Watts

Watts is president and CEO of the South Baldwin Chamber of Commerce. She has 27 years of experience in chamber of commerce management and is a member or officer of several boards and organizations, including the Coastal Resiliency Coalition, a charter member of the Baldwin County Economic Development Alliance and a founding member/treasurer of the Gulf United Metro Business Organization (GUMBO). She also is a graduate of the Baldwin County Leadership program and is a member of Leadership Alabama.

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