Montgomery Business Journal

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March 2016


MONTGOMERY – The law firm of Hill Hill Carter opened an office in Birmingham and announced the addition of Alicia F. Bennett, E. Dianne Gamble and Dana B. Hill as shareholders. The firm also announced that James “Jim” E. Beck III has been named a shareholder.

“We have long represented entities in education and employment matters and opening an office in Birmingham to be staffed by three seasoned education and employment lawyers, makes a lot of sense,” David Henderson, managing partner at Hill Hill Carter, said in a statement.

Bennett has represented boards of education, their members and employees for more than 19 years. In her capacity as general counsel for such boards, she provides advice and litigation representation in several areas, including labor and employment, contracts, civil rights and student matters. Bennett received her bachelor’s degree from Birmingham-Southern College in 1992 and received her Juris Doctor from Cumberland School of Law at Samford University in 1996.

Gamble has provided legal counsel to school boards, educators, peace officers and local governments for more than a decade and serves as general counsel and special counsel to several Alabama boards of education. Licensed in Alabama and Mississippi, Gamble has extensive trial and appellate experience and specializes in labor and employment, student matters, policy development, civil rights and tort matters. She graduated in 1996 from the University of Southern Mississippi and received her Juris Doctor from Cumberland School of Law at Samford University in 2001. 

Hill currently serves as general counsel to three Alabama boards of education and has represented nearly 20 other local school districts in state, federal and appellate courts. She focuses her practice in the areas of education law, employment law and general litigation.  She graduated from Alabama State University and received her Juris Doctor in 2000 from Cumberland School of Law at Samford University.

“Alicia, Dianne and I have worked collaboratively for years with Spud Seale, Liz Carter, Jayne Williams, and Erika Tatum and the education and employment group at Hill Hill Carter,” Dana Hill said in a statement. “We are excited to be merging our practices with theirs.”

Beck represents governmental entities, corporations and insurance companies in federal and state courts and in front of various administrative bodies. His practice focuses on general and complex civil litigation as well as administrative law matters. As a shareholder, he will continue to concentrate his practice on labor and employment, construction, insurance, public procurement and administrative law matters.


MONTGOMERY – The Starke Agency has hired Mark J. Ludick as director of sales and marketing. 

Ludick, a 30-year veteran in the insurance industry, has experience in various roles on both the agency and carrier sides of the business. Starting as a personal lines underwriter, he had numerous promotions on the carrier side. He was sales manager of a large international insurance company. Following that, Ludick moved to the agency/retail side, where he most recently served as a profit center leader for a national insurance brokerage firm.

“The addition of Mark to our management team is a milestone for our agency” Starke Agency President Trey Starke said in a statement. “To recruit a seasoned industry practice leader with marketing, sales management and team-building skills complements our agency well. Mark will lead a team of six commercial account advisers and seven risk consultants as we work through risk management and cost-effective strategies for our corporate customers.”

Ludick is a graduate of St. John’s University in Collegeville, Minn., where he received a bachelor’s degree in psychology. He has been a certified insurance counselor since 2000 and has completed six parts of his charter property casualty underwriter designation.

“I am extremely excited to join the impressive team of insurance professionals at Starke Agency,” Ludick said in a statement. “The agency truly exemplifies what a quality independent insurance agency should be. I look forward to being a contributor to the continued success of the agency.”

Starke Agency is an insurance brokerage and risk management company.


BIRMINGHAM – Warren Averett Certified Public Accountants and Advisors has hired Todd Decker as chief marketing officer and head of business development.

In another development, Warren Averett announced that nine employees were promoted to members of the firm, including two in the Montgomery office: Tia S. Levanda and Jangkeun (Paul) Han.

Levanda, a certified public accountant, is a member in the firm’s tax division. Her practice specializes in multi-state tax returns and tax research and she provides tax planning for clients in the retail, real estate and manufacturing industries. She also serves on the firm’s committee for tax best practices.

Han, who is also a certified public accountant, leads the firm’s national service leader of Korean business. He provides multi-disciplinary services to Korean-owned businesses including auditing, taxation and start-up consulting on tax and business incentive filings. He serves as a member in the Montgomery office.

Decker comes to Warren Averett from Stifel, where he was chief marketing officer. Prior to Stifel, Decker spent nearly a decade holding leadership roles in banks including Regions, BBVA Compass and Bank of America. He began his marketing career at Johnson & Johnson, where he served as marketing director for several leading consumer brands.

He graduated from Duke University and received a master’s degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

“We are fortunate to have a high-caliber business leader like Todd join our team at Warren Averett,” Tommy Sisson, Birmingham office managing member and chief growth officer, said in a statement. “I am confident that he will take our business development and marketing efforts to the next level.”


MONTGOMERY – The Montgomery Academy announced the appointment of Nicole St. Amand as the Lower School director.

She will start July 1 and was hired after a nationwide search. St. Amand has extensive experience in independent schools. She began her career as an art educator and currently serves as the Lower School director of educational technology and innovation at Shorecrest Preparatory School, a PreK-12 independent school in St. Petersburg, Fla. Prior to that, she served as a technology curriculum coordinator at Woodward Academy in College Park, Ga. While at Woodward, she also served as the director of summer professional learning and was an art teacher in their primary division for 12 years.

She graduated from the University of Georgia with a bachelor’s degree in education and has a master’s degree in education from Walden University with a focus on curriculum, assessment and instruction.  

“I am thrilled that Nicole St. Amand is joining our administration as the new leader of the Lower School,” John McWilliams, associate head of school, said in a statement. “Throughout her career, Mrs. St. Amand has been an innovative and passionate educator. She will build on the legacy of excellence left by Jan Pringle as she retires from the position at the end of the year.”

St. Amand said in a statement: “Contributing to a community with which I share my deepest values is my highest priority from a professional perspective and I am thrilled to have the opportunity to assist in leading Montgomery Academy to continued success.”

The Montgomery Academy was founded in 1959 and is a kindergarten through grade 12 independent, non-profit, college preparatory day school with 850-plus students.


MONTGOMERY – Denise Blake Greene has joined the Joy to Life Foundation and LEAN Magazine as marketing director.

She will play a vital role in spreading awareness throughout the state, fundraising and developing community partnerships.

“We are absolutely thrilled to have Denise Greene join our staff at Joy to Life,” Joy Blondheim, co-founder of Joy to Life Foundation said in a statement. “She brings a wealth of knowledge we need as we move on and up with our marketing strategy.”


MONTGOMERY – Health Services Inc. appointed Dr. Mahmood Zaied to chief of pediatrics.

Zaied, who has 30 years of medical experience, is licensed to practice in three states as well as three countries. He has spent more than half of his medical career with Health  Services. He will lead the company’s pediatric teams in clinical solutions and quality patient care.


MONTGOMERY – Alabama News Network has announced that Vince Lennon has been hired as sports director, marking his return after a near 20-year hiatus. 

“I’m thrilled to be back in the Capital City,” Lennon said in a statement. “This is where my sports reporting and anchoring career took off more than 20 years ago.”

Lennon comes to Alabama News Network from WRCB, the top-rated NBC affiliate in Chattanooga, Tenn., where he was the sports anchor/reporter. Prior to Chattanooga, Lennon served as executive producer at Macon’s dual FOX/ABC affiliate WGXA-TV and as a segment producer and show writer for CNN and Headline News, where he worked with Kyra Phillips, Rick Sanchez and Robin Meade. 

Before his CNN days, he worked as a reporter/fill-in anchor at Knoxville, Tennessee’s ABC affiliate WATE-TV. Before Knoxville, Lennon served as reporter/anchor/sports photographer for Chattanooga’s ABC affiliate WTVC-TV. He spent four years as sports director at ABC Montgomery from 1994 to 1998.

Lennon can be seen weeknights on Alabama News Network at 5 p.m., 5:30 p.m., 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. on WAKA CBS 8 and WNCF ABC Montgomery as well as at 9 p.m. on WCOV Fox 20.


MONTGOMERY – Sarah Walker Thornton has joined the Cloverdale Playhouse as artistic director of Montgomery’s community theater as it enters its fifth season.

Thornton has a wealth of theater experience in Montgomery and New York City. She spent the last seven years in New York City, where she co-founded the Bama Theater Co. with fellow alumni from the Alabama Shakespeare Festival’s Master of Fine Arts graduate program.

She joins the Cloverdale Playhouse as its second artistic director. “I am truly honored and grateful for the opportunity that the board and the artistic committee have given me and for the heart-warming faith they have in me,” Thornton said in a statement. “I have a great love and respect for the work done at the Playhouse and I’m thrilled to play a part.”

The Playhouse also welcomes Joe Collins to the new position of technical director. A volunteer at the Playhouse since his role in 2014’s “It’s a Wonderful Life – A Live Radio Play,” Collins coordinates production and facility maintenance at the former church-turned-theater.

The Cloverdale Playhouse, which opened its first season in 2011, is a volunteer-based community theater.


MONTGOMERY – Experienced salesman Tom McGuire has joined the Four Star Freightliner sales team as an account manager.

McGuire, who will work primarily out of the Montgomery office, has six years of experience in sales.

“We are very proud to add Tom to our team,” New Truck Manager David Turner said in a statement. “He is a very knowledgeable salesman that will work well with our customers. He is very enthusiastic and brings a renewed energy to our team.”

McGuire also spent two years as a driver and knows what drivers are looking for when purchasing a new vehicle.

“When I initially left sales, I knew I’d want to come back,” McGuire said in a statement. “I love the interaction with people and the challenge that comes with the job.”


MONTGOMERY – Gilpin Givhan has named attorneys Royal Dumas and Clinton Graves as firm shareholders.

Dumas practices in the firm’s commercial real estate, litigation and labor and employment practice groups. He received his law degree from the University of Alabama School of Law. His practice focuses on numerous and varied aspects of corporate law, including commercial litigation and transactional matters for clients throughout the United States.

Graves practices in the firm’s taxation, business organizations and transactions, and municipal and public finance practice groups. Graves received his bachelor’s degree in accounting from the University of Mississippi and his law degree from Cumberland School of Law. He practices primarily in the areas of municipal and public finance in Alabama.

Gilpin Givhan is a full-service business law firm that represents clients ranging from large, publicly traded corporations to small businesses, individuals and entrepreneurs.

41 Commerce Street, P.O. Box 79, Montgomery, Alabama 36101   Tel: 334.834.5200   Fax: 334.265.4745   Sitemap