Meet the Steering Committee

By July 27, 2018 April 28th, 2020 News
Updated: April 2020

The City of Tuscaloosa is undertaking an ambitious long-range planning effort to establish a vision and policies for how and where the City will grow over the next decades. It is crucial that this plan be built on the values, needs and aspirations of the community. To ensure this happens, a diverse group of community members was convened to guide the planning process.

The steering committee began meeting in June 2018 and held their last meeting in December 2019. During this time, the committee worked closely with the City’s planning staff, the consultant team and other community members to advance both the public process and the substance of the new comprehensive plan.

With the success of the Open House in November 2019 and the final review of the Steering Committee, the process has now shifted into adoption. The City of Tuscaloosa is thankful to the hard work and dedication of these individuals in guiding the planning process.

Lydia Avant Lydia is a native of Florence, Alabama but has lived in Tuscaloosa for almost 20 years. She graduated from The University of Alabama with a bachelor’s and master’s in journalism and spent more than a decade as a reporter at The Tuscaloosa News, covering the Tuscaloosa County Commission and Northport City Council, among other beats. Lydia continues to write a parenting column, which is syndicated in about 100 newspapers nationwide. She is now the editor of Alabama Alumni Magazine and teaches journalism as an adjunct at UA. She is married to Michael Avant and has three kids, ages 9, 6 and 3.

William Blakeney William grew up with his father in the construction field and started his own company, William Blakeney Building Company where he renovates and builds residential properties. He focuses on the details and making sure everything flows seamlessly. When William is not visiting job sites, he enjoys spending time with his wife, Kristin, and son, Wills.

Nelson Brooke Nelson has been the Riverkeeper at Black Warrior Riverkeeper since 2004. He was raised in Birmingham, and grew up exploring, fishing, and hunting along the Black Warrior in Moundville. Nelson is committed to protecting Alabama’s natural resources and quite passionate about clean water and clean air initiatives. He helped found Gasp, a nonprofit clean air and public health advocacy organization based in Birmingham. He enjoys hiking, camping, and photography—so he is naturally a fan of forested natural spaces that are protected and open to the public. Protecting our sources of drinking water, ensuring clean water for swimming, recreation, and fishing, and holding polluters accountable are some of the focuses that keep Nelson enthused about his job. He enjoys meeting and working with people of all stripes and looks forward to helping Tuscaloosa envision and plan for its clean water future.

Tom Chambers Tom was born and raised in Tuscaloosa and attended City of Tuscaloosa Schools and the University of Alabama. He is married with three grown children. Tom has been in the Construction and/or real estate business since 1989. Before 1989, he worked in his family business. Tom serves on the Alabama Center for Real Estate, church council, and is a member of Economic Development Association of Alabama.

Michele Coley Michele is a new Allstate Agent in Tuscaloosa. She holds a Business Administration degree from Stillman College. She has been the chair of the Minority Business Council for over four years. Michele enjoys mentoring and developing young people. She also has been married for 24 years, and they have one son.

Brock Corder Brock is a lifelong resident of Tuscaloosa and a product of the Tuscaloosa City School System. He holds a bachelor’s in industrial engineering and an MBA from The University of Alabama. Brock has been involved in the Tuscaloosa real estate business since he was 19 years old. He has served as president of The Builders Group since 2005 and led its growth locally and in other major markets across the state. Brock has served in numerous civic and professional roles with the Chamber, Home Builders Association of Tuscaloosa, Capstone and SmartBank, First United Methodist Church, and the TCIDA board. He is married to Amanda, and they have three children (Cooper, Patrick and Addie).

Dr. Lamin Drammeh Lamin serves as the vice president for strategic initiatives and executive director of Stillman College and Foundation. He has more than 15 years of executive leadership and management experience in higher education administration and technical college systems. Previous leadership roles include serving as director of Center for Excellence, chief international officer, senior research director, chief of staff, special assistant to the president, and vice president for research. During his tenure of administrative positions, he has garnered more than $23 million in extramural grants from federal agencies and international governments and organizations. These include secured sponsored research funding from the U. S. Agency for International Development, U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Mission in Tanzania, and the Government of United Republic of Tanzania. Lamin understands the importance of working with others through a shared vision to bring about deep cultural change. He holds a doctorate in educational administration with a concentration in leadership. He has co-authored more than 30 secondary education textbooks, published numerous works and refereed publications. Lamin has been recognized locally, and at the state, national, and international levels for his stellar work in education at the college level as Principal Investigator. As a two-time Olympian, he has an impressive travel portfolio and a host of accolades in research, leadership and service.

Dr. Serena Fortenberry Originally from Georgia, Serena has a BA from Mississippi University for Women and a MA, Ph.D. (American Literature) from the University of Alabama. She is UA English Faculty. Serena is married with three children in city schools. She is also a Historic District resident.

Tim Harrison Tim is president and founder of J. T. Harrison Construction Co., Inc. (1996). He has over 30 years’ experience in the construction industry. He graduated from Auburn University with a bachelor’s in building construction. Tim has been married for 25 years to Sharon Harrison and they have three daughters, Claire, Hallie, and Addison—all currently attending the University of Alabama. His affiliations include: West Alabama Chamber of Commerce, Board of Directors West Alabama Works Steering Committee World of Works Construction Word Leader ABC (Associated Builders and Contractors, Inc. Alabama Chapter), and Board of Directors City of Tuscaloosa Planning and Zoning Construction Board (Associated General Contractors of America, Alabama Chapter). Tim has also partnered with two other local construction companies to establish a carpentry program at Shelton State Community College to promote growth in the carpentry and construction fields; and he is an Adopt-A-School Junior Achievement Sustaining Supporter.

LaShonda Lockett LaShonda completed her education through Tuscaloosa City School System and is a graduate of Stillman College. She was born and raised in Tuscaloosa’s west end area. LaShonda believes this community has so much potential for economic growth. She is confident that with the right infrastructure the community will reap the benefits of the investments for years to come.

Blake Madison Blake is a shareholder in the law firm of Rosen Harwood, P.A., where he practices primarily in the areas of business and commercial law; state and local taxation; non-profit entities; and privacy and cyber security law. Blake is currently Chairman of the Board of the Chamber and has been active in the Chamber for many years. He is a graduate of Leadership Tuscaloosa and a long time Rotarian. Blake and his wife, Susan, have a golden retriever named Jasper and they love to travel when they have the opportunity. They are members of Central Church of Christ and are devoted Crimson Tide fans.

Dr. Nicole Prewitt Nicole serves as the director of programs and partnerships for community engagement in the Center for Community-Based Partnerships at The University of Alabama (UA). In this role, she works with diverse groups of stakeholders such as non-profit organizations, neighborhood associations, higher education institutions, the faith community, the public health community, and the legal/criminal justice community. Her primary responsibilities include Saving Lives, a faith-based wellness program; The Tuscaloosa Consortium for Higher Education, a partnership that includes Stillman College, Shelton State, and UA; and the Neighborhood Partnership Committee, which works with neighborhoods to improve relationships among students, law enforcement, and property managers. Nicole also serves as a member of the Tuscaloosa Latino Coalition, which fosters partnerships to increase visibility and engagement between Tuscaloosa’s Hispanic and Latino communities and service providers. She holds an Ed.D. in adult, higher, and community education from Ball State University, a Master of Arts in education from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and a bachelor’s degree in biology, history, and secondary education from Alabama A & M University. She is originally from Florence, Alabama and lives in Tuscaloosa with her husband, Rev. Eric M. Prewitt and their two children.

John Rainey John is a Tuscaloosa native. He is married to Tomika Harris Rainey who is also a Tuscaloosa native. They have two daughters Morgan and Jadyn. Both daughters attend public school in the county school system. John attended Stillman College and Jefferson State Community College. He has been employed with Alabama Power Company for almost 20 years in the engineering department as a specialist. John is a nationally licensed funeral director/ mortician. John and his wife are proprietors of Rainey Mortuary Service, a full-service funeral provider in the City of Tuscaloosa.

Robert Reynolds Robert is a shareholder and senior partner in the Tuscaloosa office of Reynolds, Reynolds & Little, LLC, primarily representing financial institutions in lending, bankruptcy and commercial litigation matters. He attended the University of Alabama School of Law and has practiced law in Tuscaloosa since 1979.  Robert serves as the chairman of the City of Tuscaloosa Planning and Zoning Commission, past President of the Tuscaloosa Historic Preservation Society, and past president of Original City Association. He and his wife Ruth, who grew up in Tuscaloosa, live on Alaca Place in the Downtown Historic District. They enjoy the city and especially Lake Tuscaloosa with their grandchildren and three pugs.

Gerald Ross Gerald is married to Janie Kirkland of Huntsville, they have both lived in Tuscaloosa more than 20 years. They have three grown children that all were educated in Tuscaloosa, 2 still live in Northport, one lives in Colorado. Gerald is an associate broker at Advantage Realty Group and has been in real estate for six years specializing in residential sales. He serves on the Executive Council for the Tuscaloosa Association of Realtors and is the secretary/treasurer for the Tuscaloosa Association of Realtors. Gerald graduated Leadership Tuscaloosa in 2016 and is active at Vineyard Community Church off Black Bear Way.

Steven Rumsey Steven was born and raised in Tuscaloosa attending city schools and graduating from UA. He is married with two children. Steven is a local businessman involved in flatbed trucking, waste hauling, multifamily housing, recycling, truck rental and leasing and logistics management with local industry. He is a member of the Planning and Zoning Commission, the TCIDA and the Chamber. Steven is interested in the future of the City with strategic planning, workforce development, crime prevention and education as instrumental components.

Susie Smith Susie has been a resident of Tuscaloosa since 1981. She has been a homeowner in the Springbrook neighborhood since 1989. She is a retired educator and member of Tuscaloosa Neighbors Together and the League of Women Voters of West Alabama. She hopes that the collaboration of steering committee members, Planning NEXT consultants, and City staff produces a comprehensive master plan that reflects a realistic, equitable balance between thoughtful, smart, data-driven commercial development and the interests of all of Tuscaloosa’s citizens and neighborhoods, particularly neighborhoods south of the river.

Cindy Stephenson Cindy is married to Dr. Carl Stephenson. She is a mother of two—son, 20, and daughter, 16. Cindy has lived in Tuscaloosa for 19 years. She is a retired attorney and currently working as a personal trainer. Cindy lives in the NorthRiver/Lake Tuscaloosa area.

Jay Welborn Jay is a lifelong Tuscaloosa resident. He attended Tuscaloosa City Schools and the University of Alabama. Jay and his wife, Leah, have three children (15, 13, and 9) who attend Tuscaloosa City Schools. His wife is a teacher at the UA Rise Center and the program is very dear to their family. They own four Piggly Wiggly locations in Tuscaloosa and Northport. Jay’s Dad, Jimmy, and Partner, Ronnie, started their company (B&W Foods, Inc.) in 1998. Thanks to a nomination from the West Alabama Chamber of Commerce, they have recently been recognized as one of thirteen 2018 Alabama Retailer(s) of the Year by the Alabama Retail Association.

Craig Williams Craig is the owner/operator of Avenue Pub and Central Mesa (full service restaurants located in Downtown Tuscaloosa). He is a graduate of the University of Alabama, a resident of Downtown Tuscaloosa (lived in Tuscaloosa since 2000) and is active on the Board for West Alabama Food Bank. Craig is a graduate of Leadership Tuscaloosa and active on the Steering Committee for the Chamber’s Young Tuscaloosa Organization.

Bill Wright Bill was born and raised in Tuscaloosa. He is a graduate of Central High School and The University of Alabama. Bill currently serves as vice-chairman of the Tuscaloosa Planning and Zoning Commission; and he is the owner of Royal Fine Cleaners and FRSTeam of Central Alabama & Mississippi.

Additional Steering Committee Members

Daphne Curtis
Wade Feltman
Willie Gordon
Erica Grant
Chris Hall
Tim Leopard
Stephon Lewis
Clint Mountain
Paul Rollins, Jr.