Village Living May 2024

Page 1

TAlthough the sea may yield, when it comes to pursuing her dreams, Mallie Robinett does not.

This time last year, Robinett was a senior at Mountain Brook High School, with scarcely a month before graduation with her fellow Spartans. She was a seasoned veteran of the Alabama Performance Volleyball Club’s club and beach volleyball programs, an alumnus of Leadership Mountain Brook and an outstanding student. She was also, at that point, set on playing Division III volleyball at the Coast Guard Academy and, ultimately, being commissioned as an ensign. Sponsors 4 City 6 Business 9 Community 14 Schoolhouse 20 Events 22 Sports 24 Opinion 26 Real Estate 28 INSIDE Mountain Brook is a haven for migrating birds. See page 16 See page 14 The Art of Place Birds of a Feather Artist Claire Cormany captures the beauty of the world around her. GUINSERVICE.COM Serving the Birmingham area since 1958. 205-595-4846 AL#12175 May 2024 | Volume 15 | Issue 2 MOUNTAIN BROOK’S COMMUNITY NEWS SOURCE VILLAGELIVINGONLINE.COM | STARNESMEDIA.COM BROUGHT TO YOU BY SERVING MOUNTAIN BROOK, THE 280 CORRIDOR, HOMEWOOD, HOOVER, TRUSSVILLE AND VESTAVIA HILLS By JIM NOLES
he motto of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, “Scientiae Cedit Mare,” translates to “The sea yields to knowledge.”
See McMILLAN | page 31 See ROBINETT | page 30 Samford head coach Bucky McMillan with the net after Samford University’s men’s basketball team defeated East Tennessee State University in the Southern Conference Tournament championship game on March 11 in Asheville, North Carolina.
University Athletics.
his current
Onwards and upwards Mountain Brook graduate readies for Coast Guard Academy
Photo courtesy of Samford
True to his roots: Career rise continues close to home for McMillan By KYLE PARMLEY Those who have known Bucky McMillan the longest are the ones least surprised at
winter, in his fourth season as the men’s basketball coach at Samford University, McMillan took the Bulldogs to the program’s first NCAA Tournament in 24 years, won the most games in Samford single-season history and won the Southern Conference outright for the first time in program history.
Mallie Robinett in an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter. After the Academy, she hopes to earn her wings as either as a fixed-wing or helicopter pilot for the Coast Guard. Photo courtesy of Mallie Robinett.

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2 • May 2024 Village Living
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About Us

For this month’s publisher’s note, I have some good and some bad news.

First, the good news: This is the last publisher’s note I plan to write for at least a while.

And there is no bad news, but we all know that looming bad news captures attention.

More good news is that Tim Stephens has taken over as interim editor-in-chief for our company.

I’ve asked Tim to improve Village Living and our other newspaper products by making them more relevant, more consistent, more connected and by increasing digital touch points within the community.

likely continue to see is us asking for your input and feedback on making our media connect with you more impactfully.

And you should also see new and creative ways to make that happen through all of our distribution channels.

In the coming months, you should see noticeable changes in all of these areas of this paper.

You’ll also see a new face and a new voice in this space. What you’ll

As always, I welcome your input. You can reach me by email at Dan

Gardner Astroturf (6)

Heating Cooling and Electrical LLC (6)

Parrot Structural Services LLC (26)

Piggly Wiggly (18)

Ray & Poynor (11)

Ritch’s Pharmacy (14)

Shelby Neuropathy and Laser (27)

Southern Home Structural Repair Specialists (25)

SouthState Bank (5)

TherapySouth Corporate (3)

TrustMark Bank (25)

University of Alabama / Culverhouse College of Business / Executive MBA (8)

Vulcan Termite & Pest Control (8)

Weissman Orthodontics (19)

Window World of Central Alabama (17)

4 • May 2024 Village Living
Starnes Tim Stephens Jon Anderson Leah Ingram Eagle Kyle Parmley Lee Hurley Melanie Viering Erin Nelson Sweeney Ted Perry Simeon Delante Sarah Villar Publisher: Editor in Chief: Community Editors: Sports Editor: Contributing Editor: Design Editor: Photo Editor: Page Designer: Production Assistant: Operations Specialist: Please Support Our Community Partners Amy Smith Gardner, State Farm (20) Bedzzz Express (32) Birmingham Museum of Art (23) Bromberg’s (24) Bryant Bank (21) Budget Blinds (15) Children’s of Alabama (24) Coastal Conservation Association (22) Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham (13) Elle (28)
ENT Associates of Alabama (22) Etc. (29)
Gardner Landscaping (5) Gaynell Hendricks - Tax Assessor (20) Guin Service (1) Gunn Dermatology (7) Harbin Discount Pharmacy (21) Hoke Animal Clinic (12) Issis & Sons (17) JB & CO (14) KADCO Homes / CRE Realty (2) Katie Crommelin, Ray & Poynor (13) Linscomb Wealth (10) Luckie’s Pine Straw - Straw Daddy (1) Mr. Handyman of Birmingham (9) One Man & A Toolbox (28) One Source
Publisher’s Note By Dan Starnes
THE MONTH Mountain Brook’s Langston Lilly (23) reacts after scoring a goal for the Spartans in a soccer game against Vestavia Hills at Mountain Brook High School on March 21. Photo by Erin Nelson Sweeney. Legals: Village Living is published monthly. Reproduction or use of editorial or graphic content without prior permission is prohibited. Village Living is designed to inform the Mountain Brook community of area school, family and community events. Information in Village Living is gathered from sources considered reliable but the accuracy cannot be guaranteed. All articles/ photos submitted become the property of Village Living. We reserve the right to edit articles/photos as deemed necessary and are under no obligation to publish or return photos submitted. Inaccuracies or errors should be brought to the attention of the publisher at (205) 313-1780 or by email. Published by: Village Living LLC P.O. Box 530341 Birmingham, AL 35253 (205) 313-1780 For advertising, contact: Please submit all articles, information and photos to: Join the conversation. Scan the QR code to read us online, join our newsletter and follow us at Get Village Living in your mailbox, inbox and online. Find Us Village Living is distributed through direct mail to Mountain Brook residents. You can also find copies at a variety of locations throughout the community. For a list of pick up locations, scan the QR code below or go to villageliving Katharine Armbrester Solomon Crenshaw Jr. Lee Hurley Loyd McIntosh Jim Noles Ashley Rogers Barry Wise Smith Grace Thornton Brent Thompson Charles Vaughan Warren Caldwell Don Harris Contributing Writers: Client Success Specialist: Business Development Exec: PLEASE RECYCLE THIS PAPER
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Council discusses bike signs, cameras on Jemison Park Trail

“I love what we did at the park. It's fabulous,” Luckie said. “I just want to be sure that we're policing it properly, that it's under control and nobody gets hurt. Particularly with all the traffic. While there's been no accidents there, I don't think there's ever been this level of traffic either. I think that's my biggest concern, with kids and dogs and everybody getting distracted and then a car coming by. You know what could happen.”

Along with motorists driving too fast, Luckie also said he is concerned about security along the trail and that bicycles should not be used there.

Council President Virginia Smith said she’s

not worried about toddlers pedaling tricycles and the like. Parks and Recreation Superintendent Shanda Williams said signs prohibiting bicycles, which were removed during upgrades to the trail, will return.

Smith also suggested that “Share The Road” signs be posted near the trail to alert motorists of people riding bicycles along Mountain Brook Parkway.

“I don't want to add signs all over the place, but there are some really known bicycle routes through our city,” she said. “I don't think the occasional sign is going to hurt anybody.”

Addressing security, Smith said the city sometimes has cameras along the trail.

Gerald Garner, the council’s liaison to the park board, said there have been discussions about installing cameras and erecting signs. He also talked about an ordinance concerning bicycles along the trail.

“There is not one on the books right now, and I think they were wanting to try to work through

signage and some of those things before they get to that next level,” Garner said. “But they are thinking about the cameras and some of that stuff. They are on top of it.”

Williams said the park board wants to update signs at the city parks. The council approved the installation of the first sign, at Woodcliff Park.

“Each sign for each park would be a little bit different, but the stone would do the same, the mortar, the cap on the side, the font, the limestone inlay ... everything. All the materials are the same,” said Dale Brasher of Brasher Design Studio. “We're just trying to create a sense of entry for the park, so when you see the sign and the materials, you'll know you're entering a Mountain Brook park.”

Also on March 25, the council amended Articles XXV and XVI of the city code. Among other things, the amendments:

► Extend the timeframe for a developer to begin construction of a Planned Unit

► Reduce the number of copies an applicant submits to the city for a PUD, from 17 copies to one digital copy.

► Allow filing applications for rezoning and preliminary site plans with the zoning officer instead of the city clerk.

► State that the planning commission will hold a public hearing, after giving notice, of its consideration of the rezoning application. Following the public hearing, the zoning officer — rather than the planning commission — will forward the application to the city council.

► Change the time limit for re-applying for a zoning change. If the city council denies an application to rezone a parcel, another application for the same change for part of all of that parcel shall not be considered by the planning commission or the city council for six months. The previous time limit was two years.

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Tommy Luckie told the Mountain Brook City Council during its March 25 meeting that he’s the biggest cheerleader for the newly improved Jemison Park Trail. But he feels some more improvements are still needed.
Development from one year to two years, unless another timeframe is approved by the council.
Far left: Gerald Garner, the council’s liaison to the park board, said there have been discussions about installing cameras and erecting signs. Left: Tommy Luckie told the Mountain Brook City Council that more improvements were still needed on Jemison Park Trail. Photos by Solomon Crenshaw Jr.

New fire station bid comes in under budget

“Sam, I don’t know how to comment. All I can say is, ‘Well done,’” Councilor Billy Pritchard said. “The numbers came in a lot lower than we all anticipated and expected.”

Stone Building was the low bidder at about $10.1 million. Other companies were tabbed as alternates; all were approved in case the city chooses to add any of the alternate features to the project.

“We had five companies, I believe, that were pre-qualified to bid on this,” Gaston said, three of which bid under the estimate.

“We're excited about having that next new

fire station built. I think that'll be great,” he said. “Plus, that will free up, eventually, that land where the fire station is now for some type of expansion or addition to Overton Park.”

The new fire station will be about a quarter mile east of the current location, adjacent to Overton Park.

The council also:

► Amended the city code to address dirty and unmaintained business awnings. Violators will receive a notice in the mail and will have 60 days to remedy the situation. If they fail to fix the matter, they will be fined $500. An additional $50 will be tacked on each month from the date the letter is mailed.

► Established a flat attorney rate for indigent clients in municipal court.

► Reappointed Jenifer Kimbrough to the Mountain Brook Board of Education.

► Agreed to convert Memory Triangle to a clover and wildflower groundcover.

► Authorized the sale and disposal of certain surplus property.

Mayor’s Minute

There’s an ancient tale that a century ago, an elderly woman would travel the long road to the river each day to collect water in two buckets, which she balanced on each end of a pole on her back.

One bucket was new and the other quite old and leaked a bit. Each day when she returned home, the new bucket was full, but the old bucket was half empty. The old bucket felt bad, but the wise woman explained the next day, “See all the flowers along the side of the road? You helped water them and, in doing so, have made what would be a difficult daily drudgery into a beautiful and peaceful journey.”

I tell this story because, in a way, it helps explain ‘why and how’ we can all help solve a community problem. Recently, AmWaste has experienced “growing pains” related to their service. The city, especially executive administrator Janet Forbes, has been working closely with AmWaste to resolve the problems.

We have a new district supervisor at AmWaste, who is looking at restructuring routes to help them be more efficient. They are also working hard to get more equipment (there have been supply-chain issues) and to hire more personnel (there is also a significant shortage of candidates).

All of these are AmWaste issues ,but there is one problem where all our residents can help: breaking down boxes. In the new age of Amazon online ordering, box deliveries have increased 100-fold, creating a massive change in recycling opportunities.

Here are two good reasons we should go to the (minimal) trouble of flattening our boxes.

First, if you have more boxes than will fit in the cans, AmWaste personnel must spend more time loading trash into the trucks.

For those who bring their cans to the street, remember that the cans are auto-lifted to dump in the truck — a relatively quick process. If they must then hand-load boxes, it takes more time and routes may not get completed. For back-door service, boxes outside the cans may require more than one trip, which can significantly increase the time spent.

The second reason is that boxes that aren’t broken down can quickly fill up these smaller trucks, requiring them to take a lot of extra time to dump their loads and return to their routes. A bonus reason to break down our boxes is that this makes the recycling process more efficient.

If each of us takes a little bit of time, we can help make the daily journey for our AmWaste workers more peaceful and enjoyable.

So what do you say? Are you willing to pitch in and help? May 2024 • 7 205.415.7536 | 32 Church Street, Mountain Brook, AL 35213 391 Rele Street, Mountain Brook, AL 35223 Scan QR Code and follow us on Instagram for our Spring Specials
DAY from GUNN DERMATOLOGY Join us for our Mother’s Day event Thursday, May 2 and follow our Facebook & Instagram for more upcoming events!
was hard to miss the smile on Chris Mullins’ face as the Mountain Brook fire chief walked into the pre-council meeting on April 8. Soon others were smiling too, as city
Gaston and architect Adam Kent of Barrett Architecture
manager Sam
Studio announced that bids for a new Fire Station No. 2 had come in about $1 million less than forecast.
Architect Adam Kent addresses the Mountain Brook City Council as Fire Chief Chris Mullins looks on. Photo by Solomon Crenshaw Jr.

Finance committee chair, councilmember Lloyd Shelton maintains the ‘Mountain Brook way’ to handle money

After a decade on the Mountain Brook City Council and two decades on the city’s finance committee, Lloyd Shelton can tell plenty of stories about the people who have put Mountain Brook on its solid financial footing.

The 61-year-old Mountain Brook native said he has deeply revered the financial powerhouses that he has worked alongside, such as former three-term council member and finance committee chair Tom Clark and former finance committee member and CPA John Lyon.

The work of Clark, Lyon and others on the city finance committee set a standard of fiscal responsibility for Mountain Brook, Shelton said. They also taught Shelton a number of valuable lessons.

“When I got on the committee, I shut my mouth and listened. There was a lot of wisdom shared around that table. I was fortunate to be along for the ride,” Shelton said.

What he learned is the “Mountain Brook way” to handle money: being prepared and not asking for or keeping what isn’t needed, Shelton said. For example, the Mountain Brook way is to keep 180 days of cash reserves, even though most cities keep only 90 days, Shelton said. That approach is also why the city’s occupational tax was repealed in 2006, after it achieved its goal, he said.

“We didn’t need the money any longer,” Shelton said.

Planning ahead for major expenses like new fire engines or overfunding retirement for city employees is also part of the finance committee’s approach, Shelton said.

Today, Shelton serves as the committee’s chair and council liaison, along with six appointed committee members and Mayor Stewart Welch and city manager Sam Gaston as advisory members. The volunteer committee

continues these policies under his leadership.

“I’ll never forget the day I took over the finance committee and ran my first meeting,” Shelton said. “Mr. Lyon was still on the committee and I ran the meeting. That night, I got home and the phone rang, and I saw on the caller ID that it was Mr. Lyon. I said [to my wife], ‘Sarah, please get that.’ She said, ‘No way, Lloyd, you answer it!’ I was scared to death. I picked up the phone and said, ‘Hello Mr. Lyon.’ He said, ‘Lloyd you ran a fine

meeting today,’ and then hung up. That compliment went a long way in my life.”

Shelton said finance director Steve Boone, who is coming up on 30 years of service, is another reason the city is in excellent financial shape.

“Steve is an absolute superstar. Replacing him will be nearly impossible,” Shelton said. “A lot of what we do is driven by Steve. We have a rigorous budget process.”

Shelton said it takes hard work to provide

the “top-shelf services” residents expect within Mountain Brook’s financial limitations.

“It’s no huge secret that we are landlocked, and we are the only city in the state of Alabama whose number one source of revenue is real estate taxes,” Shelton said.

Shelton ran into an old friend not too long ago, who said, “I didn’t know you served on the city council,” Shelton said. “Well, I must be doing something right if you haven’t had anything to complain about in 10 years!”

8 • May 2024 Village Living
Mountain Brook City Councilman Lloyd Shelton at his office at Borland Benefield.
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Regions, with branches at 35 Church St. and 2721 Culver Road, was named a silver winner in the Learning Marketer of the Year competition at the 2024 Degreed Visionary Awards, given out by the Degreed enterprise learning experience platform. The award recognizes companies for aligning professional development with business strategies.


The Atlanta Decorative Arts Center named Dana Wolter of Dana Wolter Interiors as one of the 2024 finalists for the Southeast Designers and Architect of the Year Awards. These awards are designed to shine a light on the industry’s most innovative rising stars, whose ideas and techniques are reshaping the design landscape. Dana Wolter Interiors is at 2713 Cahaba Road. 205-938-4848,


The Welch Group has welcomed Cory Reamer as a financial advisor. The company, located at 3940 Montclair Road, specializes in retirement planning and investment management. 205-879-5001,

X4 Fitness has been open in Lane Parke for three years. The gym offers 40-minute group classes to meet all ability and fitness levels. There are three membership levels from which to choose, and you can book a free class online.


Anne Liles and Ragan Stone have put their travel knowledge, trip planning, worldwide connections and retail under one roof. Clients can shop and have an advisor plan their upcoming trip. 205-202-9441,

Steinway Piano Gallery celebrates two years at 2000 Cahaba Road, Suite 100, in English Village. The business provides piano sales, tuning, repairs, appraisal and even rentals. 205-822-3331,

Regions Bank, with branches at 35 Church St. and 2721 Culver Road, has named John Jordan as the head of retail for its Consumer Banking Group. Jordan will lead an organization of more than 7,500 Regions Bank associates. He comes to Regions from Bank of America, where he spent more than 20 years in retail banking and wealth management. As head of retail for Regions Bank, Jordan reports directly to Kate Danella, head of consumer banking. His appointment was effective April 1. 205-766-8000,


HUM Concierge is celebrating one year providing luxury services for busy clients. The company provides personal, corporate and real estate services, including personal shoppers, travel coordinators, household task assistance and more. The business is open weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. 205-578-2024,

Empower Counseling and Coaching, 4 Office Park Circle #306, has been serving clients for five years. The counselors at Empower serve teenage or adult clients dealing with anxiety, depression, PTSD and other mental and behavioral health issues. The office is open weekdays from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. 205-730-6570,

Brogue and Cuff has been outfitting men for 22 years out of its English Village location at 1905 Cahaba Road. Customers can have custom suits, formal attire, casual attire and other clothing items made by hand to fit their lifestyle. Men can be fitted in the store or at their home, by appointment. 205-803-2202,

Milla Boutique has been open at 2405 Montevallo Road for five years. The women’s clothing boutique offers a wide range of handpicked clothing items, handbags, shoes and other accessories. You can shop online or in store Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. or Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. 205-407-4745,

Key Circle Commons has been serving small plates and cocktails for two years at 2010 Cahaba Road in English Village. The lounge’s menu includes as many local ingredients as possible. Customers can stop by Monday through Wednesday from 3 to 10 p.m. and Thursday through Saturday from 3 to 11 p.m. 205-460-1088,

The Travel Studio, 2012 Cahaba Road, has been open in English Village for two years. Luxury travel advisors

Women’s athleisure boutique Eleven Eleven, 2411 Montevallo Road, has been outfitting customers for six years. The store offers athletic tops, bottoms, outerwear, exercise accessories and more. Shop online or in store Monday through Saturday from May 2024 • 9 Business
Business Happenings Business News to Share? Do you have news to share with the community about a business in Mountain Brook or the greater Birmingham area? Let us know at business-happenings Mr. Handyman is taking care of Mountain Brook’s “To-Do” List ® like us onfollow us on 205-606-0800 Give us a call! Independently owned and operated franchise.© 2022 Mr. Handyman SPV LLC. All rights Reserved Visit to learn more about our services All of our technicians are full-time employees and all of our workmanship is guaranteed. Honest. Transparent. Easy to work with and e cient. We humbly aspire to earn your business. Thank you!
10 a.m. to 6 p.m. 205-423-5071,

Entrepreneur, investor Wally Evans shares lessons, insights

Wally Evans has been a manager and owner of many companies throughout his career. He also considers himself a student of business and an avid reader of business and self-improvement nonfiction.

When he sold his business-to-business media company, Cahaba Media Group, in 2020, Evans decided to use some of his accumulated wisdom and experience to help others work through their own business challenges.

“I've worked for big companies, small companies, well-run companies and poorly managed companies. I've worked in middle management, senior management and in my own company,” Evans said. “I’ve had some notable successes, some embarrassing failures, won a bunch of awards and made a ton of mistakes along the way.”

Today, Evans is a consultant and an active angel investor, and he has served on several nonprofit boards, including The Friends of Birmingham Botanical Gardens, Mitchell's Place and The Entrepreneur's Organization.

Q: Are you enjoying this next phase of your life?

A: The reason I’m doing this consulting work is I want to feel productive. Business is an avocation for me and I feel like I have some experience to share, so I like to stay engaged in the business world, and this allows me to do that. But I do enjoy my freedom of schedule. Not setting an alarm clock is one of the great perks of my lifestyle these days.

Q: You mention that you have had plenty of failures and successes. What has one of those failures taught you?

A: Early in my career, I worked for a company that had a hard time defining what our target market was. We sold to almost any sort of business, and therefore our own marketing efforts were chaotic and not very effective. What I learned from this is that a focus on everything is a focus on nothing. The best businesses are those that clearly define a market niche they want to target, and focus all their efforts to get the most out of that niche.

Q: How does a small business get to the next level?

A: Many small businesses quit growing revenue and struggle to get to the next level once they reach about eight or 10 employees. All 10 of those employees report to the CEO, and the CEO doesn’t want or know how to delegate, and therefore the business never builds a management team. A business where everyone reports to the owner will stop growing when that owner runs out of capacity and time. Time is the one resource you cannot buy more of.

Q: What is your approach to people management?

A: Be as transparent as possible with what is going on in the company, and create a meritocracy culture. High performers want to be around other high performers. Get rid of poor performers quickly.

Q: How do you fire someone correctly?

A: First of all, if you are letting someone go, it should not come as a surprise to that person. A manager should be having regular conversations with direct reports, especially poor performers. Once a decision has been made, meet with them late on Friday afternoon, tell them that the company has decided to go a different direction and that today is their last day, and have all the paperwork and benefits details written down in a document, which you give them at that time. Keep the conversation calm, professional and brief. Treat people with dignity, and leave them alone to pack their things and leave.

Q: What tips do you have for someone starting a business from scratch?

A: Make sure you have financial records that are properly organized, accurate and timely. And learn how to read them! Poorly organized financial records are the most common problem I see with my clients. Running a business without good financial records is like trying to drive a car blindfolded.

To find more information about Wally Evans, visit

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Entrepreneur turned business consultant Wally Evans in a moment of levity. Photo by Lee Hurley.

Melt celebrates first year at Lane Parke

The story of Melt begins with a food truck called “Matilda,” serving grilled cheese sandwiches around downtown Birmingham. Now co-owners Paget Pizitz and Harriet Despinakis are marking their first anniversary in their Lane Parke brick-and-mortar location.

Despinakis, a Mountain Brook native, has been co-owner of several Birmingham restaurants, including Ocean and Fancy’s on 5th. Pizitz worked in New York for a decade as a corporate recruiter, specializing in fashion, before deciding to move closer to home.

The duo’s partnership began with the food truck and grew steadily from there.

“The response was so tremendous that after several months, we began looking for a more permanent spot. We landed in Avondale and simply loved our time there,” Pizitz said. “While we do miss our old stomping grounds, we are delighted to have a new home in Lane Parke.”

The classic grilled cheese is the foundation of the menu, with various toppings such as the Ole Smokey (turkey, bacon, lettuce, tomato), the Flyin’ Hawaiian (ham, habanero jack cheese, pineapple) or the chicken pesto. But you can also find a Rueben, a Cuban and cheeseburger among the other sandwiches on the menu, along with chips, salads and beer-battered fries. Starters include nachos, fried pickles, mac & cheese stuffed egg rolls and honey-baked goat cheese.

“As we have always said, ‘Who doesn't like grilled cheese?’ Our food puts smiles on faces, both young and old,” Pizitz said.

Melt welcomes families, including dogs, at its Lane Parke location. Tuesday nights feature trivia, Wednesdays have live music and halfpriced bottles of wine and Thursdays feature $5 margaritas.

“The restaurant industry has become increasingly challenging over the last few years, and to still be thriving is something that makes us proud. We look forward to celebrating many

more anniversaries in Mountain Brook,” Pizitz said. Melt also has locations in Hoover and Huntsville. The Lane Parke restaurant is located at 1011 Jemison Lane and is open Tuesday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.

and Friday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. For menus and more information, visit May 2024 • 11 trust in the best to change your address | 205.879.3036
Melt in Mountain Brook marked one year in its brick-and-mortar location in Lane Parke in May. Photo by Erin Nelson Sweeney.

Second act: Martin serves as director of UA center for social impact

Despite recently retiring as an Alabama Power Company executive, Mountain Brook native Gordon Martin is continuing his longtime pattern of giving back to the community and mentoring young people.

These days, Martin serves as director of the Kennemer Center for Innovation and Social Impact at the University of Alabama.

Jim Kennemer, for whom the center is named, is an entrepreneur from Tuscumbia who created a financial processing machine that was widely used by Citibank and other financial institutions, Martin said. Kennemer also created the BIG Ideas program, sponsored by University of Alabama, that allows students to design products and concepts that combine innovation and social impact.

His recent $2 million donation to the university established the Kennemer Center.

“He’s done well while doing good,” Martin said.

While Martin said he didn’t know Kennemer personally, he was immediately interested in carrying the program forward as its new director.

“I had always been interested in higher education, and I had a great experience at the university. When this opportunity came up, I thought it was a good fit,” he said.

The BIG Ideas contest was piloted during the pandemic and expanded last year, Martin said. This year’s contest started in December and wrapped up this spring, with 19 student teams and 25 judges.

“One of the things we learned early on is that it’s tough to compete with football season, so we don’t do a full academic year — we do it in the spring,” he said. “You have an idea that has to have positive social impact. There are four tracks: Health and Wellness, Education and the Arts, Energy and Transportation and Technology. It’s led by Honors College students.”

The most recent competition included proposed ideas such as Get My Meds, a virtual

pillbox to scan, log and track prescriptions; AgriAlert, which uses AI and satellite data to provide farmers with information about crop health, determining if there are any disease or pests affecting their crops; and VARA, which aims to address the gap of pediatric vision care in rural Alabama.

Most importantly, BIG Ideas is a team-based concept that promotes practical application. Students from all majors are not only allowed but encouraged to participate. Mentors, many

Gordon Martin, the director of the Kennemer Center for Innovation and Social Impact in the University of Alabama Honors College, stands outside Innovation Depot in downtown Birmingham.

retired from their own careers, guide the teams throughout the process.

“It’s interdisciplinary because we want to have a collaborative, real-world effect,” Martin said. “They submit a business plan and people review it and give feedback. Then, they are assigned a mentor.”

With the large number of university enrollees coming from all over the nation, the BIG Ideas program also aims to keep young talent in Alabama for the long term.

“A component of the Kennemer Center is ‘Study in Alabama, Stay in Alabama,’” Martin said. “Sixty percent of the kids at Alabama are from out-of-state, which is very different from when I was there.”

Martin credits his previous employer for allowing him the time to participate in civic and educational endeavors throughout his career.

“Our saying has always been, ‘If it’s good for Alabama, it’s good for Alabama Power,’” he said.

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Birmingham Mosquito Control takes the bite out of spring

James Gannon grew up enjoying the outdoors with his family, and with that comes the risk of being bitten by pest insects at any given time.

After working for most of his career in pharmaceuticals at Centurion Labs, the Mountain Brook resident decided he was ready to take on ownership of his own small business to combat those pests. He launched Birmingham Mosquito Control last fall.

Gannon was raised in Dothan but now calls Mountain Brook home, along with his wife, Amy Kathryn, and three children. His own family life makes him passionate about helping keep the

creepy crawlies out of backyards.

He has received extensive training in mosquito, flea and tick treatments, which make up Birmingham Mosquito Control’s wheelhouse. The treatment chemicals they use are safe for children and pets to walk on after spraying.

“Mosquitos are pesky, determined little things. That’s why technicians must know the most efficient treatment methods to deal with them,” he said.

Birmingham Mosquito Control is located at 800 Shades Creek Place, Suite 450, and is open Monday through Saturday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. For more information, call 205-202-9374 or visit



Guin Robinson wants to make an investment in the future of Birmingham that also pays tribute to the influence of earlier generations. That's why he has specified in his will that a legacy gift be made to the Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham.

"My family has always had a deep-rooted belief in giving back to the community, and I want to honor their values," says Guin. "As an only child with no children of my own, leaving a gift to the Community Foundation ensures that my family's legacy will be honored for years to come."

Guin trusts the Foundation to manage his gift and honor his family's legacy based on our history, transformational work, and proactive approach to community challenges and crises.

Visit and learn how you can join Guin in creating your legacy. May 2024 • 13
James Gannon and Scott Bell, owners and founders of Birmingham Mosquito Control, stand outside a work vehicle in Mountain Brook.
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The art of place

Artist Claire Cormany captures beauty in the world around her

When Claire Cormany arrived in Birmingham in 1990 to attend Samford University, she had no way of knowing that it would become her forever home.

Growing up in Winter Park, Florida, Cormany decided after graduating from her private high school that she wanted the small, liberal arts college experience — something that was in short supply in her home state. She also knew she wanted a college with a strong arts program. After meeting a Samford recruiter at her high school and a visit to the university’s suburban campus, “I was sold,” Cormany said.

At Samford, Cormany majored in graphic design and minored in painting.

“I’ve never not painted,” she said. “For my whole career, I’ve been a graphic designer by trade, but I’ve continued to paint all along.”

After taking her first post-college job as a designer for the company that became United Healthcare (“I got them through the name change,” Cormany recalled. “That was a bear!”), she assumed that she would eventually return home to Florida.

“But I fell in love with the people here,” she said.

She also fell in love with the neighborhood around the 800-square-foot cottage that she rented just off Euclid Avenue, in Mountain Brook.

“At night, after work, I would go for walks in the neighborhood,” she said. “I became captivated by the way Mountain Brook’s villages looked at night. It was magical.”

Inspired by the twinkling lights and glowing storefronts, Cormany began painting her popular village nightscapes. “I was so inspired by walking around the villages. They’re just lovely,” she says. “People don’t normally paint nighttime scenes, but I just loved the way the light and the sky looked at night.”

Cormany has painted Crestline Village, Mountain Brook Village and English Village, where she worked for eight years as the designer for Portico magazine From the vantage point of her second-floor office at the corner of Cahaba Road and 20th Avenue South, Cormany saw people coming and going from the area’s restaurants and shops, further inspiring her artistic vision.

“The village paintings are very local and very personal,” Cormany said.

Three of Cormany’s paintings hang at Church Street Coffee & Books. While the popular paintings are often sold out on her website, Cormany takes commissions for the paintings from people wanting to give them as special gifts.

“I came for college, but I stayed because it’s lovely and artistically inspiring,” she says. “It’s home.”

Cormany will be showing her acrylic and oil paintings on Spray Pond Walk at Sloss Furnaces during the 41st annual Magic City Art Connection on April 26-28. For more information, visit her website,, or find her on Instagram @cormanybyclaire.

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Graphic designer and painter Claire Cormany, poses with some of her Mountain Brook nightscape paintings. Photo courtesy of Claire Cormany.

Louise Wrinkle said it wasn’t a “crisis,” but it was a “mid-life turnaround.”

“The first half of my life I was dedicated to horses, but then I sort of got into gardening in a big way,” she said.

It started when Wrinkle inherited her parents’ home on Beechwood Road in Mountain Brook more than 35 years ago, and she “had some decisions to make” about what to do with the property.

“I wanted to make it all natural, to look like it had always been there,” she said.

And now, the 92-year-old’s woodland garden is one that people from all over the metro area and beyond look to for inspiration. It will be one of four area gardens featured during the Garden Conservancy Open Days on May 4, the first time the event has been held in the city since 2009.

“My philosophy was ‘listen to the land;’ I wanted the land to speak for itself,” said Wrinkle, who is a founding member and director emerita of the Garden Conservancy. “I’ve got trees and hills and valleys and water,

nature speak for itself’

and I wanted to have everything as undisturbed as it could be, and pick out what was good and not have an imposed style on it, but let it be itself.”

Her daughter, Anne Wrinkle, said she’s had “great awe” for her mother’s horticulture expertise for a long time.

“She has really created a respect and an admiration and expertise for the subject, and local gardeners come to her for help as a mentor,” Anne Wrinkle said. “The Birmingham Botanical Gardens, Jemison Park — they consider her a great ally. She has really fostered a love of plants and letting nature speak for itself and decide what it wants to do.”

Camille Butrus, a Mountain Brook resident and board member for the Garden Conservancy, said Louise Wrinkle “has been a mentor to everybody in Birmingham who has gardens” — herself included.

“She has been enormously helpful to me; she made all sorts of suggestions, and they were perfect,” Butrus said.

The Butrus property, which features Italian gardens, a woodland garden, a greenhouse and citrus trees will also be featured during Open Days.

“There are a lot of different things to see,” Butrus said. “We bought the house in 1996, and I’ve been renovating the garden ever since. Every couple of years, I add something new.”

The other two gardens to be featured are called “The Dancer” and “Rooms with Views.” More information is available on the Garden Conservancy’s website.

Cliff Weathers, the director of communications for the Garden Conservancy, which is based in New York, said the restart of Open Days in the area is a “big return.”

“some of the biggest voices in gardening in the U.S.,” Weathers said.

The premiere of “A Garden in Conversation: Louise Agee Wrinkle’s Southern Woodland Sanctuary” will be followed by a panel discussion on Southern gardens, native plants and conversation.

It will also be coupled with the re-release of her book, “Listen to the Land: Creating a Southern Woodland Garden,” which sold out its first edition.

Anne Wrinkle said her mother’s book is “the story of her; part memoir and part garden documentation photographs, both her own and professional photography.”

“We understand that this is a very important garden region, and we’re happy to be back,” he said.

In addition to the four featured gardens, there are “so many other people with beautiful private gardens, so we hope this inspires something that can become a tradition again in the Birmingham area,” Weathers said.

Open Days will also include a special event the following day — the premiere of a new documentary film about Louise Wrinkle’s garden, which will be shown May 5 at 3 p.m. at Virginia Samford Theatre.

The film is the fifth in a documentary series, and it’s the first time the filmmakers have had the opportunity to interview the person who started the garden, Weathers said. “The film is Louise giving her perspective, and it creates a discussion about Southern gardens in general and what is a Southern garden,” he said.

It also includes interviews with

“Her garden was featured in other publications, but this was her chance to write her own story,” she said. “It’s a guide for gardeners of all types, even beginning gardeners — it’s very user-friendly.”

The weekend will offer a chance for hundreds of people to experience some area residents’ private gardens, Weathers said. “These have not been open in any way in years, and this is an opportunity to see this physical artwork that they know about but they haven’t gotten a chance to see themselves.”

The Garden Conservancy Open Days event is set for May 4 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is $5 for conservancy members and $10 for nonmembers. For more information or to reserve tickets, visit

For more information about Louise Wrinkle’s book and the documentary film about her gardens, visit or order the book from Little Professor Bookshop. May 2024 • 15
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Wrinkle garden to be featured in ‘big return’ of Garden Conservancy Open Days
Left: The garden of Camille Butrus in Mountain Brook. Photo by Erin Nelson Sweeney. Right: Louise Wrinkle tends to flowers in her garden. Wrinkle is the author of “Listen to the Land: Creating a Southern Woodland Garden,” which is being reissued for the Open Days event celebration. Photo courtesy of Anne Wrinkle.

Birds of a feather

Mountain Brook haven for migrating birds

It isn’t only the human residents who think Mountain Brook is a lovely abode. Birds also enjoy the trees and creeks in this community, and some of the avians that perch in the treetops have traveled all the way from South America.

As spring warms into summer, now is the perfect time to enjoy our feathered neighbors, both the year-round locals and the migrating visitors.

Since its recent renovations, Jemison Park Trail is not only more friendly for walkers but for bird watchers, or “birders,” as many prefer to be called.

Heather McCalley has been a birder for six years and serves as treasurer for Alabama Audubon, the state chapter of the National Audubon Society.

“I was looking for something fun and inexpensive to do outdoors,” McCalley said, “and I just got hooked.”

The Jemison Park Trail was lengthened to 1.7 miles and widened from five to nine feet, and the path is now farther away from the roads and noisy traffic.

McCalley said the renovations were beneficial to both birds and birders, with a lower chance of birds being hit or simply scared off by vehicles. This distance also means that birders can hear chirps, tweets and caws more clearly.

On the day she spoke with Village Living, McCalley was pleased to spot a great blue heron on the trail. She has frequently observed them flying over her house as well as Mountain Brook Elementary School. Since great blue herons — which are the largest water bird in North America — love to be around water, they are often seen wading in or near Shades Creek, and McCalley believes they roost at the Mountain Brook Country Club.

Eastern phoebes, Carolina wrens, tufted titmice, white song sparrows and American robins are very common in the area, McCalley said. Spotting a pileated woodpecker, she noted that this species is known for its black, red and white markings, large size — the bird she spotted on the Jemison Trail was at least 17 inches tall — and distinctive sounds.

“Like the Woody Woodpecker character,” McCalley said. During the interview, she identified multiple birds by their calls, many of which she can imitate.

“Red-tailed and red-shouldered hawks are more common,” McCalley said, as well as barred owls that nest in houses built by Eagle Scouts along the trail.

More cardinals will soon arrive in Mountain Brook as they migrate from South America. “To enjoy our spring,” McCalley said, and “to get more insects.”

Warblers are also migrating to the state, she said. They fly over the Gulf of Mexico, usually in one night, and often land at Dauphin Island at the mouth of Mobile Bay. Some of the migrating birds will stay for the summer, while others continue making their way to Canada.

An easy way to wade into the world of bird watching is by downloading an informational app to your phone. McCalley recommends the eBird app to discover what species are common in a particular area, and the Merlin Bird ID app identifies birds by sound.

McCalley also recommends the Audubon Bird Guide app from the National Audubon Society. The society’s website includes a list of native plants that will attract local birds. The Alabama Birding Trails group on Facebook is another great way to learn about local birds and post pictures, she said.

“Birders are often enthusiastic photographers,” McCalley said.

A good set of binoculars is important, and McCalley’s advice to new birders is to be completely still and wait until you spot movement to bring the binoculars up to your face in order to get a closer look.

Rising at the crack of dawn to bird watch is

not necessary. “They like to sleep in too,” she said, and birds usually begin stirring around 8 or 9 a.m., “after things have warmed up a little bit.” She does not recommend birding on the Jemison Trail as early as 7:30 a.m. because of the rush hour noise.

Birding is also possible in the backyard. Local hardware stores like Little Hardware offer bird feeders and food to draw visitors to your yard. McCalley suggests that when the birds have emptied the feeder, make sure to wash it out with a little Clorox, since dirty feeders can spread diseases.

“Make sure to take your feeders down for a while if you notice any sick-looking birds,” McCalley said.

Mountain Brook residents will observe more hummingbirds in the coming months as they

too migrate from South America, and McCalley said store-bought food is not required to entice them. Just a little sugar and water, with no dye, is all that’s needed.

Commit to cleaning hummingbird feeders every other day, McCalley said, especially in the summer months since the sugar water spoils easily in the heat, and mold can grow in the feeder.

McCalley is involved in Alabama Audubon’s volunteer-driven initiative Safe Flight, which brings attention to the fact that many birds die after flying into the windows of commercial buildings.

As a volunteer, she walks around the University of Alabama at Birmingham early in the morning, and if she encounters injured or dead birds, she makes a note on an app that collects

Birding at the Kaul Wildflower Garden

The Kaul Wildflower Garden was established at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens in the early 1960s as a tribute to Alabama’s native ecological habitats. Keith Turney, the senior horticulturist for the Friends of Birmingham Botanical Gardens, is overseeing the renewal of the garden, which includes establishing a bird habitat (or what Turney calls “a living bird feeder”) in the upper forest/ savannah overlook area of the garden, designed to attract birds and provide a sustainable, yearround sanctuary for them.

Cassia Kesler, the director of communications and marketing at Friends of Birmingham Botanical Gardens, said more than 200 fruit-bearing trees and shrubs have been planted in the garden to offer food sources and nesting spots.

“Some plants were chosen because they attract insects and caterpillars, food sources for different species of birds,” she said. “A stream bed using native rock has been constructed to provide a water and bathing source.”

When the habitat is completed this summer, Kesler said it will be a wonderful area for birders to visit and observe migrating birds returning to the garden.

data to persuade companies to either put coatings on their windows to make them less reflective or to commit to building future structures with bird-safe glass.

If Mountain Brook residents find an injured bird, they can call the Alabama Wildlife Center at Oak Mountain State Park, and the staff will give instructions about “how to handle or not handle the bird,” McCalley said. The center helps rehabilitate and release injured birds. Alabama Audubon offers free field trips and volunteer opportunities for those who want to learn more about birding or help keep Mountain Brook’s ecosystems healthy for its feathered residents.

16 • May 2024 Village Living
Above: Heather McCalley, a local birder, eyes a pileated woodpecker through her binoculars along the Jemison Park Trail. Below: McCalley points to a photograph of a pileated woodpecker on her phone using the bird identification app Audubon. Photos by Erin Nelson Sweeney. May 2024 • 17

Mountain Brook resident to host annual Cooper Farm Rodeo

Tom Stevens, a Mountain Brook resident and the founder and CEO of T. E. Stevens Construction, is set to host the 13th annual Cooper Farm Rodeo in Shelby County on May 31 and June 1. He has worked with friend, partner and fellow rodeo enthusiast David Cooper to bring competitive rodeo to the area each spring for well over a decade.

Stevens’s fascination with the rodeo began almost 20 years ago, while spending time with his children, Miller and Mary Farley, on their farm in Wilsonville. On one particular weekend, the family noticed a sign in front of a nearby farm promoting a rodeo, and Stevens thought it might be fun to swing by before returning home to Mountain Brook.

“I asked the kids if they wanted to stop by the rodeo and they both said, ‘Yes!’” he recalled. Almost immediately, they were hooked by the professional bull riders and calf ropers, as well as the chance to participate in special kids’ events.

“My kids had on T-shirts and tennis shoes while the other kids were dressed up in their jeans, cowboy boots and Wrangler shirts, but they all went out there and did a calf scramble and just had a blast,” Stevens said. “It was a full-fledged rodeo and it was just great. I could not wait for the rodeo next year.”

However, several years went by without another rodeo on the farm. Then, Stevens had a chance encounter with the farm’s owner, David Cooper, while helping at his father’s business, Lloyd’s Restaurant.

“I asked David, ‘Did y’all do a rodeo there one year?’ He said yes,

but he had stopped because it was too much for one person to take on, going through all the headaches of logistics, sponsors, vendors, etc.,” Stevens said. As he listened, he thought the two of them could bring

the rodeo back and turn it into a signature event.

Now in its 13th year, the Cooper Farm Annual Rodeo brings hundreds of people to rural Shelby County for two days of professional

rodeo action. Stevens said all of the profits are donated to various organizations and agencies throughout Birmingham.

Stevens and Cooper have raised more than $100,000 for various

organizations and causes such as the Ronald McDonald House, Chelsea High School, Double Oak Community Church, Jackson-Olin High School, the Monday Morning Quarterback Club and Cahaba Valley Healthcare. He added that the rodeo is supported by sponsorship from companies such as Thompson Tractor Company and Robins & Morton.

Fans can expect to see talented professional rodeo athletes from across the nation competing for thousands of dollars in prize money and the chance to move up the ranks of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association.

“It’s an open-air rodeo, and you can walk all the way around and go behind the scenes. If you want to pet a horse, you can walk up and pet a horse. Everything’s accessible,” Stevens said. “It’s kind of like a carnival or a fair. Everyone who goes has an awesome time.”

Even after more than a decade, Stevens is still awed by the skill and athleticism needed to excel in the various events, from the “adrenaline junkie” bull riders to the rough-andtumble cowboys in the steer-roping competition.

“The guys that jump off the horse and wrestle a steer to the ground, they are nuts,” he said. “They’ve got to jump off of a moving horse onto a moving cow, grab it around the neck and throw it to the ground. Those are tough guys.”

The 13th Annual Cooper Farm Rodeo is scheduled for Friday, May 31, and Saturday, June 1, starting at 7:30 p.m., rain or shine. Cooper Farm Arena is located at 14480 Highway 61 in Wilsonville. Admission is $10, and kids younger than 5 are free.

18 • May 2024 Village Living
A Friday night at the Cooper Farm Rodeo. From left: Stacy Stevens, Bill Morton and Tom Stevens. Photo courtesy of the Stevens family.

Mountain Brook sportswriter David White talks new book, state of sports

Sportswriter, author and blogger David White has been covering high school, college and professional sports for more than three decades. The Mountain Brook native’s most recent book, a novel set in Alabama, is called “An Exceptional Coach.” The book follows Atwater High School football coach Kirby Williams as he is hired to help revive Western Alabama University’s struggling football team.

“I’ve always admired the coaches who have gotten it done the right way,” White said via email in April, “and that means by of course being successful in the win-loss column, but also excelling in character development and personal integrity.”

White graduated from Vanderbilt University in 1984 with a degree in European history. Trying to figure out his calling, he pursued a couple different careers, including at the family-owned O’Neal Steel.

“Sales in the steel business was not my forte, so I went into sports broadcasting before realizing I’d rather write,” he said.

After a stint at Bama Magazine in 1987, followed by other sports writing gigs in North Carolina, White moved back to his hometown, first contributing to the now-defunct Birmingham Post Herald before going out on his own as a blogger and author with five books to his credit.

Q: Your book focuses on a successful high school coach transforming a college team. What is your perspective on Bucky McMillan, Samford University’s men’s basketball coach and a former Mountain Brook High School athlete and coach?

A: Bucky is outstanding. What a developer of players and programs. What he did at Mountain Brook and what he’s doing at Samford are as good as it gets. His future is very bright wherever he ends up. It could be Samford for life, you never know. I covered him as a player for Mountain Brook at the Post Herald. He was always locked in, and he knows what it takes to be successful.

Q: With head coach Hugh Freeze in the driver’s seat, do you think Auburn football is going

to get back in the top 10 rankings?

A: He has recruited well this season, No. 8 in the country according to Rivals, and has the No. 9 recruiting class for 2025. He’s got some holes to fill for next season, but he has the support to excel at Auburn. It’s certainly not a sure thing, but I do think he’s a good coach if he can maintain his composure and not lose it like he did at Ole Miss.

Q: Are there any lesser-known players at Auburn we should look out for?

A: A guy I’m also really interested in is rising freshman quarterback Walker White from Little Rock. He’s a four-star recruit and has excellent talent. Running backs Jeremiah Cobb and Daman Alston are extremely talented as well. This next season will be pretty compelling.

Q: Which professional golfers do you follow the most closely?

A: I went to Vanderbilt, so I like the Vandy golfers. Brandt Snedeker, Luke List and now Will Gordon, who are all on tour, are alums I keep close tabs on. Brandt’s pretty well known, and while the others aren’t household names, they are studs. I really like Scottie Scheffler. He could be an all-time great, winning north of five to seven Majors.

Q: Do you feel like new head football coach Kalen DeBoer was the right hire for Bama? Out of this season’s transfer players, which ones stand out for you?

A: I like the hire. Those are gigantic shoes to fill, and I don’t know if anybody can come close to duplicating Saban’s past results, but DeBoer is an outstanding coach. Quarterback Jalen Milroe is the man right now under center for the Tide, but this transfer quarterback from the University of Washington, Austin Mack, is a 6’6”, 226-pound four-star (according to 247 sports). That’s head-spinning. I also like former five-star defensive end LT Overton from A&M and former four-star safety Keon Saab from Michigan.

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David White, a local sportswriter, at his office in Mountain Brook. Photo by Erin Nelson Sweeney.

College-bound seniors share reflections, plans

Village Living asked five Mountain Brook High School seniors to share their feelings about graduation and their plans and hopes for the next phase of their lives.


Q: What is one of your favorite memories about high school?

A: One is when the football team made it to the state championship in Auburn during my junior year. Near the end of the game, they started playing “Sweet Caroline” over the speakers and everybody in the whole stadium sang it together.

Q: Where are you going to college?

A: I am still deciding between Texas Christian University and Auburn University.

Q: What will you study?

A: I am currently planning on studying business, but I’m also interested in journalism or political science.

Q: What do you want to do after college?

A: I would love to work in some field involving writing — I am specifically interested in journalism. I’m also interested in possibly attending law school. My main goal is to live in a big city, preferably New York. That’s always been my dream!

Q: How do you think you will change in college?

A: I’m sure I will become much more independent. I will hopefully gain a better idea of what I want my future career to be.

Q: What are one or two activities you hope to be involved with in college?

A: I would love to join the student-run newspaper, and I am planning on rushing in the fall and being involved with a sorority.


Q: What are you not going to miss about high school?

A: The fixed, rigid schedule that repeats every day.

Q: Where are you going to college?

A: I’m undecided right now but have narrowed my choices to Yale University and Columbia University. I want to have the intellectual challenge, as well as a community of students that supports each other and builds each other up. I also want to go somewhere new and explore a new part of the country.

Q: What will you study there?

A: I’m starting with a double major in physics and economics.

Q: What do you think you will be doing in 10 years and where will you be doing it?

A: Right now, I’m hoping to work on Wall Street in New York. That’s kind of a loose goal, but it’s an idea.

Q: Is there anything else you’d like to say about going to college next year?

A: I’m super excited and I’m very grateful for the opportunities I have.


Q: What is one of your favorite memories about high school?

A: Whether we were playing pickleball, looking at the stars or literally just sitting and talking, I always had the best time with my friends.

Q: Where are you going to college?

A: Auburn University.

Q: What will you study there?

A: I plan to major in either business or communications and minor in music business.

Q: What do you hope to do after college?

A: Either find a job somewhere in the music industry or public relations.

Q: What are one or two activities you hope to be involved with in college?

A: I hope to be involved in Greek life and campus ministry.

Q: What do you think you will be doing in 10 years?

A: I hope to be leading a joyful life in Christ, and to have a stable job, dependable friends and still be in touch with my close friends today.

Q: Is there anything else you’d like to say about going to college next year?

A: I honestly couldn’t have asked for a better

high school experience, and I’m super excited for this next step and all the new friendships I will make!


Q: What was a unique experience that happened to you in high school?

A: One has to be when I watched my math teacher play several of my male classmates in a basketball game. The looks on everyone’s faces was incredible when our teacher began to play.

Q: Where are you going to college?

A: The University of Alabama. The university made me feel so incredibly welcome that I couldn’t imagine going anywhere else. The campus is gorgeous, the environment upbeat and the people are super friendly.

Q: What will you study there?

A: I’m planning to study psychology and Spanish, as I want to help those with language barriers get the psychological help they need and deserve.

Q: What do you want to do after college?

A: I plan to attend medical school, and from there I want to be a psychiatrist.

Q: What are one or two activities you hope to be involved with in college?

A: I really hope to be involved in more

community service. Giving back has always been really important to me.

Q: Is there anything else you’d like to say about going to college next year?

A: I’ve never been so excited about anything, ever. I can’t wait! Roll Tide!


Q: What were some of your positive experiences in high school?

A: I won homecoming king (12th grade), I became part of my high school’s broadcast (10th grade) and I became the bowling captain (10th grade).

Q: What are you not going to miss about high school?

A: I will not be missing the busy work assignments. Some of my teachers think their class is the only one that exists.

Q: Where are you going to college?

A: I’ve narrowed it down to Florida State, University of Washington and Indiana University, but I would say I'm leaning towards attending Florida State.

Q: What will you study there?

A: I want to major in journalism and media production.

Q: What do you want to do after college?

A: Since I’m only young once, I would like to travel before settling down and finding a job.

Q: Do you think college is more fun or less fun than when your parents went to college?

A: I think college will be more fun than when my parents went. They didn’t have access to laptops and the internet, and connecting with friends is a whole lot easier. I can just text my buddy if he wants to play pickleball.

Q: Is there anything else you’d like to say about going to college next year?

A: While leaving high school will definitely be sad — after all, I’m leaving some people I’ve known for 12 years — I think college will be even better than high school. For the first time since middle school, I’m going to be surrounded by a ton of new people my age. I have no doubt that college will be an experience of a lifetime.

20 • May 2024 Village Living
a schoolhouse announcement? Email Leah Ingram Eagle at to be considered for inclusion in an upcoming issue.
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Turning tassels: Mountain Brook High graduation set for May 21

Mountain Brook High School will honor more than 300 graduating seniors with a commencement ceremony on Tuesday, May 21, at 7 p.m. at the Pete Hanna Center on the campus of Samford University.

According to William Galloway, the communications and public relations specialist for Mountain Brook Schools, the school doesn’t have valedictorians or salutatorians, but instead has “honor graduates,” where the top 5% of the class is recognized and walks across the stage first.

Each graduate is given 13 tickets for family members or friends. The ceremony will also be live streamed on the Gold Channel on Spartan TV ( and will be available on Roku and Fire Stick. Search “Mountain Brook High” to find the channel. May 2024 • 21 BRYANTBANK.COM/PERSONAL BRYBNK-BeyondBank-Print-Half Village Living 2023.indd 1 3/19/23 10:32 PM Call or visit today 57 Church St. Mountain Brook | 205-871-2196 521 Richard Arrington Jr Blvd S. Birmingham | 205-323-2474 We discount the price, not the service | Delivery | | Covered by Blue Cross and most insurance plans | | Complete line of health and beauty items | | Flu, Covid-19, and shingles vaccinations | | Compounding Lab | Established 1954 LOCALLY OWNED AND OPERATED
The Mountain Brook High School Class of 2023 tosses their caps during the graduation ceremony at Samford University’s Pete Hanna Center. Photo by Richard Force.


Mountain Brook events guide

May 10: 14th Annual ‘Tails in the Trails 2024. 6-9 p.m. Birmingham Zoo. Presented by the Birmingham Zoo’s Junior Board. Visit the Trails of Africa for an outdoor celebration with music, animal encounters, small bites from area restaurants, beer, wine, specialty cocktails and a silent auction. All proceeds benefit Carlos the giant anteater’s habitat. One free drink ticket per person is included with the purchase of event admission. Early bird tickets are $40 per person or $75 per couple, or $60 per person or $115 per couple for admission with an unlimited drinks wristband. Standard tickets are $45 per person or $85 per couple, or $65 per person or $125 per couple for admission with an unlimited drinks wristband. All guests must be 21 or

Live Music

May 2: Tyler Diuguid. 5:30 p.m.

May 3: We are Wolves. 5:30 p.m. Local Honey. 9 p.m.

May 4: Edmonds Butler Band. 9 p.m.

May 9: J.D. and The Man. 5:30 p.m.

May 10: Cheyloe and Kyle. 5:30 p.m.

May 11: T.U.B. 9 p.m.

May 16: Leah Slaughter and William Yarbrough. 5:30 p.m.

May 17: Matt Devine and Johnny Kulinich. 5:30 p.m. 8 Track Country. 9 p.m.


allergies or other ear, nose,

For a complete and thorough evaluation make an appointment today to see one of our 15 board certified physicians, 4 highly trained, licensed PA’s, or 16 clinical audiologists – all available to serve your needs at any of our 10 locations.

At our practice, your health comes first; and we strive to treat each patient as a person, not just another case. Our goal is to deliver a positive personal experience along with a positive outcome.

For your convenience, we have same day appointments available, as well as early morning, evening, and Saturday appointments. Please call 1-888-ENT-5020 (1-888-368-5020) for more information, visit us on our website at, and scan the QR code below to follow us on social media.

22 • May 2024 Village Living
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May 18: Graham and the Damaged. 9 p.m.

May 23: Alice Bargeron. 5:30 p.m.

May 25: About Time. 9 p.m.

May 30: Rick Carter and Johnny Kulinich. 8 p.m.

May 31: Cheyenne Chapman. 5:30 p.m.


Sundays: Moral Support. Noon to 3 p.m.

May 2: Matt Devine Duo. 6-9 p.m.

May 3: To Da Maxx. 6-9 p.m.

May 4: Payton Williams Duo. 6-9 p.m.

May 9: Joe Breckenridge. 6-9 p.m.

May 10: Noble Freeland and Young. 6-9 p.m.

May 11: J.D. and The Man. 6-9 p.m.

May 16: Cheyenne. 6-9 p.m.

May 17: Stephen Wood Duo. 6-9 p.m.

May 18: TUB Trio. 6-9 p.m.

May 23: Billy Gant. 6-9 p.m.

May 24: Len. 6-9 p.m.

May 25: Craig McGriff. 6-9 p.m.

O’Neal Library

Early May children’s programming is paused while staff prepare the library for summer programming. Register for events at


Tuesdays: Gentle Yoga — With Marie Blair. 10-11 a.m.

Tuesdays and Thursdays: Open Maker Lab. 2-6 p.m. All ages welcome.

May 1: Mahjong Meet Up. 10 a.m. to noon. This program is for skilled mahjong players. Be on the lookout for beginner lessons later in the summer.

May 7: Vacation Travel Tips with Sarah Robinson of Hum Concierge. 2-3 p.m.

May 7 and 9: Writing Workshops with Miriam Calleja. 5:30-7 p.m.

May 8: Medicare Made Clear — What You Need to Know. 10 a.m. to noon.

May 8: “Kill List” — An Under the Mountain Movie Event. 7-9:30 p.m.

May 9: Retirement by Design — with Ramey Harrell. 6:30-7:30 p.m.

May 11: Crafterday! 9 a.m. to noon.

May 11: 80s Adventure Film Series — “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” 3-5 p.m.

May 13: Great Short Stories — “Memento Mori” by Jonathan Nolan. 6:30-7:30 p.m.

May 14: The Bookies — “The Mysterious Case of Rudolf Diesel” by Douglas Brunt. 10-11:30 a.m.

May 21: O’Neal Library Board Meeting. 8:45-9:45 a.m.

May 21: Books & Beyond — Author Study: Henry James. 6:30-8 p.m.

May 29: Red Mountain Theatre’s Seasoned Performers Present — “TWO FOR ONE!” 2-3 p.m.


May 3: Game On. 3:30-5 p.m.

May 6: TAB Meeting. 4:30-6 p.m.

May 17- 21: Exam Breaks. All day.

May 19: Teen Summer Reading Begins! 3:30-5 p.m.


May 19: Summer Reading Kick-Off — Carnival & Thomas Hughes Brinkley Memorial Fun Run. 3:30-5 p.m.

May 28: LOL: Extra. 3:30-4:30 p.m. Grades K-2.

May 30: All Together Storytime. 9:30-10 a.m. and 10:30-11 a.m. All ages welcome for an informal storytime.

May 30: SNaP. 3:30-4:30 p.m. Grades 3-6. May 2024 • 23
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Weaving a ‘Webb’ of wins

500 wins later, Spartans coach’s passion for soccer remains unchanged

Twenty-eight years and more than 500 wins into his career, Mountain Brook High School boys soccer coach Joe Webb sticks to the principles he instilled upon his arrival in 1996.

“Two years ago, one of the players on the team was the son of one of the players on my very first Mountain Brook team,” Webb said. “We had a running joke that we have the same rules now as we did when his dad was here.”

His tried-and-true coaching philosophy received extra validation on Feb. 22, when his Spartans defeated Woodlawn 11-1, making Webb the fourth coach in state history to break the 500-win mark.

It was fitting that Webb, who has been involved with Birmingham soccer his entire life, reached the milestone against a familiar local foe.

“I played at Huffman way back when, and Huffman and Woodlawn were always rivals, so I enjoyed going over to Woodlawn just for that sake. I've been over there a thousand times now,” he said. “It was cool to [do it] at a place where I felt so comfortable.”

Webb made more history just a few weeks

later, when his Spartans took on Oak Mountain, coached by fellow 500-game winner David DiPiazza. The game was the first matchup of 500-win coaches in Alabama history, a moment

made all the more special by the pair’s longstanding friendship.

“David, when he was in high school at John Carroll, I was an assistant coach there,” Webb

said. “We go way back. When he went off to college, I think he went to Memphis first, and then from there he transferred to Birmingham-Southern, which is where I played. We had that moment, and it was really cool.”

Despite leading all active Alabama coaches in victories, Webb rarely reminisces on individual games, he said. Instead, he prefers to reflect on the relationships he’s built with his players and his coaches.

“My first win at Mountain Brook was actually against Huffman,” he said. “It was tough emotionally just because I knew all the kids on the other team. I tell people all the time — I treat these kids like they're my own more than people realize sometimes. You get attached to them.

“Whatever the record is at the end of the season, what you're going to remember is something that happened in practice, something that happened at a game, something that happened traveling to a game, something that happened on one of our bus rides,” he added. “Those are the memories that stick with you, really.”

Behind-the-scenes moments like those are why Webb continues to love his job.

“Winning 500 games just means I've been around for a long time,” he said. “And the fact that I get to keep doing something that I love for such a long time just shocks me every day. My dad used to joke that I would do this for free if it was possible for me to do it for free.

“I love what I do,” Webb added. “I coach club, I referee. I love the game and I love helping other people try to love the game.”

When people with extraordinary talent and passion are given the technology, the facilities, and the support, they achieve great things. The discoveries taking place today will help shape the future of treatments and lead to cures – benefitting not only our patients and families, but people across the country and around the world for years to come.

24 • May 2024 Village Living
Mountain Brook head coach Joe Webb talks with the Spartans during halftime of a game against Oak Mountain at Oak Mountain High School on March 14. Photo by Erin Nelson Sweeney.
happens Amazing 1600 7TH AVENUE SOUTH | BIRMINGHAM, AL 35233 Brand_AMAZING_Ad-VillageLiving-Newsprint_Starnes_4.79x7.59-PROD.indd 1 3/5/24 2:47 PM

Sports Editor’s Note

What is it about March Madness?

If you recall seeing me during the first four days of the NCAA Basketball Tournament in the middle of March, you’re not remembering things correctly.

That’s because not many people ever see me during those days. It’s nearly impossible to pry me away from the television during the first two rounds of the spectacle that created the phrase “March Madness.”

To me, there’s simply nothing like it. What is it about the tournament that draws the eyes of the nation every year? Is it the personal investment that comes with creating a bracket? Those are basically a level playing field, with the person who doesn’t know anything about college basketball having as good a chance as the person who cares way too much about it.

Is it the underdog stories that come from the tournament every year? In no rational world should teams like Oakland (a school not in California) beat teams like Kentucky, yet it happens every single year without fail.

Here in Alabama, it was a special year, with Alabama, Auburn, UAB and Samford all qualifying for the tournament. That certainly created some additional buzz.

I think it’s a little bit of everything. One of

the great things about being a sports fan is cheering for a particular side. When you create a bracket, it automatically gives you a stake in each game.

It adds a level of intensity when the team that you cheer for is in the tournament, whether that’s any of the in-state teams or someone else (I’m a lifelong Gonzaga fan, for whatever reason).

The Cinderella stories are what make it the most special to me, though. Many of us relate to the underdogs. The teams that have no business winning do the unthinkable, giving hope to all of us that anything is possible.

Up until a few years ago, a No. 16 seed (the lowest seed in the tournament) had never defeated a No. 1 seed in the first round of the tournament. UMBC finally broke that seal with a win over Virginia in 2018. That paved the way for Fairleigh Dickinson’s monumental upset of Purdue in the opening round in 2023.

There’s nothing like it. As a fan, the tournament provides the most awe-inspiring victories, gut-wrenching losses and emotional moments.

I can’t get enough.

Kyle Parmley is the sports editor at Starnes Media. May 2024 • 25
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Life Actually

15 self-care tips for moms

Here is the deal, moms: The older you get, the more responsibilities you shoulder, and the more self-care you need.

Life requires more of you today than it did five years ago, and if all you ever do is give, you’ll get depleted. Your wheels will fall off. You’ll feel tired, numb and vulnerable.

For this reason, you must learn to mother yourself. Make sure that you don’t fall through the cracks or get in the habit of self-neglect. How? By tending to and protecting your health. Doing things that build strength and stamina. Cultivating a life you enjoy. Making sure you feel equipped to handle the challenges that life brings.

Self-care isn't selfish; it's necessary. Nobody benefits when you run on fumes, so here are some ways to “mother” yourself as you raise a family.

1. Follow this rule: If you'd do it for your children, do it for yourself. This includes keeping doctor appointments, getting a suspicious mole checked out, giving yourself room to fail and try again, correcting negative self-talk, working toward a positive self-image, going to bed early after a long day and setting boundaries with toxic people.

2. Take deep breaths when you feel overwhelmed or anxious. Follow the 4-7-8 rule:

Inhale through your nose for 4 seconds, hold it for 7 seconds and then exhale through your mouth for 8 seconds. This is very effective in calming your body down.

3. Talk to a friend at least once a week. Make plans to go walking, have coffee or spend time together. Nobody “gets” your life quite like a good friend, and we all need age and stage friends who listen, encourage, help us process life and — most importantly — make us laugh.

4. Maintain a healthy diet. Get enough protein, healthy fats and healthy carbs (like veggies and fruits) in your diet, and avoid too many sugary foods. The older we get, the more impacted we are by poor nutrition.

5. Drink water and stretch. These basic habits often fall through the cracks.

6. Exercise. The health benefits are obvious, but did you know that anxiety releases adrenaline, and as adrenaline builds up in your body, you need exercise to release it? Exercise also clears your head and triggers endorphins, the feel-good chemicals produced by the body. One of the best ways to manage stress is through physical movement.

7. Stop beating yourself up. As Lysa TerKeurst said, “Bad moments don’t make bad mamas.” God’s grace is bigger than any mistake,

and through Him you can parent with strength, not defeat.

8. Prioritize your sleep. Even if it means accomplishing less in a day or saying “no” more often, feeling well-rested helps keep you in fighting condition.

9. Don't struggle alone. Share your problems with people you trust, so the enemy can’t isolate you and make you feel alone, ashamed and tempted to withdraw. Don’t fall for his tricks; instead of turning inward, turn outward. Bring your struggles to light, and admit them to people who can speak truth and pray for you. No matter how strong you feel, you need people to help you through your darkest hours.

10. Have a passion apart from your family. Find activities that make you lose track of time and lift your spirits. Whether it’s art, design, reading, time in nature, yoga, tennis, writing, Bible studies, cooking, scuba diving or another activity, it’s important to have your own “thing,” a healthy escape that fills your tank and reminds you of who you used to be.

11. Treat bad days as good data. When you have bad days, bad feelings or bad experiences, ask yourself, “What can I learn from this? What might God be trying to teach me?” What bad days often teach us is humility, compassion and

deeper dependence on God.

12. Practice gratitude. Every morning when you wake up, thank God for a new day and basic gifts like eyes that see, legs that walk, lungs that breathe and a heart that beats.

13. Let yourself cry. It’s been said, “If you’re crying, you’re healing,” and it’s true. Sometimes 5 minutes alone in the bathroom and a quick cry can help you regroup and face the world again.

14. Have a support system. Everyone’s team looks different, and your team may include your spouse, therapist, preacher, best friend from high school, sister, mother, co-worker or running group. On a good day, your support system is a bonus. On a bad day, it’s a lifeline.

15. Let God love you — and remember how deeply He loves you even on your worst days. He sees how hard you’re trying, and if you could see the way He delights in you, with the proud smile of a perfect Father, you’d never doubt your worth again.

Kari Kubiszyn Kampakis is a Mountain Brook mom of four girls, author, speaker, and blogger. Her bestselling books are available everywhere books are sold. Join Kari on Facebook and Instagram, visit her blog at, or find her on the Girl Mom Podcast.

26 • May 2024 Village Living
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Helical Piers

The things I could write about pound cake. I could go on and on and bore you to death, but I won’t.

After my father died, I remember visiting a Methodist church with my boyhood friend, and he was introducing me to people. He was raised Methodist, I was not. My people were Baptist.

The Methodists were cheerful. My people didn’t believe in cheer. Our pastor preached hard against alcoholism, promiscuity and narcotics because these things could lead to cigarette smoking.

My friend pointed to one lady in the congregation. She was slight, with gray hair and a blue skirt suit.

There are some people you don’t forget. She was one of those people. She had a heavenly glow. People smiled when they passed by her like she was unique.

“Who’s that woman?” I asked.

“That is the Pound Cake Lady,” my pal said in reverence.

After the Methodist service, my friend led me to a downstairs fellowship hall. The Methodists put out a bigger spread than any I’d ever seen. There was even a special table dedicated to cornbread and biscuits.

It was too much. Overwhelming. I even saw people standing outside the fellowship hall, smoking cigarettes after their meal. It was as though they were unwinding after sin.

The woman in the blue skirt suit placed

Sean of the South

Pound Cake Lady

something on the end of the table. It was a golden, fat, hulking, sacred pound cake.

“Hurry and get some,” said my friend, “before it’s all gone.”

He was right. The cake didn’t last four seconds among those chain-smoking Methodists. But when it disappeared, the old woman replaced it with another.

People blessed her name forevermore. Hallelujah. And so did I.

So every church has a pound cake lady. They are young, middle-aged or elderly, and they are holy. These ladies are messengers, sent to humanity as proof that God is not gluten-free. He loves white flour, sugar and butter, no matter what diet books say.

If you have doubts whether your congregation has a pound cake lady, just ask your church secretary. She knows their phone number by heart.

Years later, I met a young woman at a similar potluck. She was brunette, Baptist, with brown eyes. She and I became friendly and spent time together.

One summer, she invited me to go with her family on their annual vacation.

Her family rented a house in Indian Pass, Florida, on the Gulf. When I arrived, I found

the place filled with people. They were crammed in that little house, eating raw oysters, laughing and carrying on. There were so many that some had to sleep on coffee tables and in bathtubs. I felt out of place.

The girl’s mother showed me to my bedroom, which was down the hall from the brunette’s room.

Her mother said, “This is where you sleep. I’m right across the hall. And remember, I can hear whenever your door opens.”

And I knew that if I tried to exit my room past curfew — even to visit the little boys’ room — I would wake up in a graveyard dead.

I fell asleep that night wondering why I was there, on vacation with a happy family. I didn’t belong to these people. I’d never belonged anywhere. Ever since boyhood, I had a hard time fitting in.

My family was nothing like this family. We were broken and about as unstable as a rickety stool.

The next morning, I awoke to a pleasant smell that flooded the house. It was a familiar aroma. I followed it downstairs.

There, I found everyone awake. A big man dressed in seersucker, a woman wearing pearls, a lady with a big sunhat and several

others. They were all singing “In the Garden.”

They asked me to join the singing, so we all sang together as I wondered if these people were fugitives from the Searcy nuthouse.

Then some lady said, “We’re so glad to have you here, Sean.”

Everyone agreed with her. And I don’t know why, but I nearly cried.

And that smell. It was so strong. It smelled like being hugged. Like vanilla. Like prayer meetings on warm Saturday evenings. Like looking at a midnight sky over the Gulf of Mexico.

From the kitchen came the brunette. Young. Smiling. She carried a plate. On the dish was the source of the smell. A slice of warm, yellow, dense pound cake.

Everyone stopped singing. They behaved reverently when she passed by. Boys removed their hats and held them over their hearts.

And the family watched me take my first bite. A bite that would change my life forever. I told you, I could go on and on about pound cake and bore you to death. But I won’t.

I just wanted to tell you how I came to marry the Pound Cake Lady.

Sean Dietrich is a columnist and novelist known for his commentary on life in the American South. He has authored nine books and is the creator of the “Sean of the South” blog and podcast. May 2024 • 27
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28 • May 2024 Village Living Real Estate isn’t for everyone. Because Doing it Yourself Residential Commercial Special Projects 205-823-2111 • One Man & a Toolbox Handyman Services LOVE YOUR WARDROBE Monday - Saturday 10-5 or by appointment 61 Church Street | 205.870.5683 By the numbers: March 2023 vs. 2024 Note: Real estate data is by zip code, but some parts of these zip codes are outside the city limits. Data provided by the Greater Alabama Multiple Listing Service on April 7, 2024. May 2024 • 29 ► ADDRESS: 111 Richmar Drive ► BED/BATH: 4/3.5 ► SQUARE FOOTAGE: 3,328 sq. ft. ► NEIGHBORHOOD: Mountain Brook ► LIST PRICE: $1,800,000 ► SALE PRICE: $1,800,000 ► ADDRESS: 3720 Crestbrook Road ► BED/BATH: 4/2.5 ► SQUARE FOOTAGE: 2,592 sq. ft. ► NEIGHBORHOOD: Cherokee Bend ► LIST PRICE: $619,900 ► SALE PRICE: $575,000 ► ADDRESS: 2600 Abingdon Road ► BED/BATH: 3/3 ► SQUARE FOOTAGE: 2,601 sq. ft. ► NEIGHBORHOOD: Mountain Brook ► LIST PRICE: $1,700,000 ► SALE PRICE: $1,700,000 ► ADDRESS: 3469 Spring Valley Court ► BED/BATH: 3/2 ► SQUARE FOOTAGE: 2,045 sq. ft. ► NEIGHBORHOOD: Brookwood Forest ► LIST PRICE: $489,000 ► SALE PRICE: $490,000 ► ADDRESS: 19 Montcrest Drive ► BED/BATH: 4/3 ► SQUARE FOOTAGE: 2,980 sq. ft. ► NEIGHBORHOOD: Crestline ► LIST PRICE: $1,195,000 ► SALE PRICE: $1,490,000 ► ADDRESS: 2511 Mountain Brook Circle #C ► BED/BATH: 2/1 ► SQUARE FOOTAGE: 826 sq. ft. ► NEIGHBORHOOD: Mountain Brook ► LIST PRICE: $292,500 ► SALE PRICE: $280,000 Recently sold homes in Mountain Brook SOURCE: GREATER ALABAMA MULTIPLE LISTING SERVICE


“The Coast Guard encompasses the humanitarian missions — search and rescue, drug interdiction, marine life safety and others — and I know whatever mission I end up working on, I’ll be passionate about it,” Robinett said.

But entry into the Academy, with its acceptance rate of only about 15%, was far from certain – even for a student-athlete of Robinett’s caliber. Scarcely 400 students enter the academy each summer.

Therefore, even though Coast Guard volleyball coach Mark Thomas wanted Robinett playing for the Bears, it was clear her best path to the New London, Connecticut, campus would be through a program called the Coast Guard Academy Scholars program.

“CGAS functions as a year-long prep school for its participants,” Chief Petty Officer Third Class Matt Thieme said. “In this case, the students are billeted at the academy, are in uniform and live under academy discipline, but attend classes nearby in Groton at the University of Connecticut – Avery Point.”

Thieme said most participants who successfully complete the yearlong program receive an appointment to the Academy’s next class.

Undaunted by the challenge set in front of her, Robinett entered CGAS in the summer of 2023. In the blue uniform blouse and trousers the Coast Guard calls its Operational Dress Uniform, she settled into a life of military discipline that was a far cry from the dorms and sorority houses of Tuscaloosa or Auburn.

“Time is so precious that we don’t even sleep under the covers on our bunks,” Robinett said with a laugh. “If you did, you’d just have to make your bed up tight the next morning, and we don’t have time for that. So I sleep under a throw blanket I have from home.”

Robinett’s current class load includes calculus, physics, chemistry and statistics, but, according to her, Mountain Brook prepared her well.

“I have the highest GPA out of everyone on my hallway,” she said, “and so I try to help everyone as best I can. Last semester’s chemistry was very similar to 10th grade chemistry, and calculus was a lot easier for me because pre-cal at MBHS covered a lot of the first few chapters of calculus here.”

“I had a lot more homework at Mountain Brook,” she added.

Robinett’s success to date comes as little surprise to her mother, Mary.

“She puts everything into what she does,” her mother said. “She is incredibly hard-working and mature. She was that way back in high school. Keeping up her grades, playing competitive volleyball and even holding down a job at Nothing Bundt Cakes.”

“We did not see the Coast Guard Academy coming,” Mary Robinett said, “but I couldn’t be happier for her. I grew up in South Carolina, and we have seven graduates out of The Citadel in my family, so we understand what the military is about and appreciate it.”

At the academy, a typical day in the CGAS program for Mallie Robinett involves waking up at 6 a.m. (or 4:30 a.m. if she has volleyball practice). “Then, it’s just normal college,” she said. “We go to class, go to lunch in the mess hall and then in the afternoons everyone goes to their sports practice or goes to the gym.”

“Then we eat dinner and do homework,” she said. “‘Taps’ goes off at 10 p.m. each night, but usually we stay up past then doing homework.”

These days, the focus is turning to final exams — and the hope of a long year in CGAS coming to an end.

Once final exams are completed, a well-deserved stretch of leave awaits Robinett back home in Alabama. But then, if she is indeed formally accepted into the Academy, comes “Swab Summer” beginning July 1, 2024.

The Coast Guard has described Swab Summer as “an intense seven-week basic training program designed to transform civilian students into military members ready to accept the call of safeguarding the nation’s maritime security interests.”

“But you also get to spend a week on the Eagle,” Robinett added, referring to the Academy’s three-masted sailing ship used to train cadets.

After Swab Summer, Robinett’s real

In the Coast Guard, you are preparing every day for what you want to do. I think that really sets the Coast Guard apart from the other services.
“ ”

journey at the Academy will begin. In addition to summer training, her time in New London will include four years of rigorous academics, focused heavily on math, science and engineering. For her part, Robinett hopes to major in naval architecture and

marine engineering. The voyage ahead for Robinett promises to be a challenging one, and, in the end, it will demand at least five years of service on active duty in the Coast Guard following her graduation. But Robinett has no complaints.

For Robinett, one possibility might be serving on board an armed fast-response cutter as one of its 24 officers and crew.

“Maybe something out of Miami would be nice,” she said.

But for now, her main ambition is to ultimately pursue flight school, either as a fixedwing or helicopter pilot. The Coast Guard’s fleet of aircraft ranges from MH-60 Jayhawk helicopters to, coincidentally, the HC-27C Spartan, a twin-engine plane designed for medium-range surveillance, drug and migrant interdiction and search-and-rescue missions, among others.

“In the Coast Guard, you are preparing every day for what you want to do,” Robinett said. “I think that really sets the Coast Guard apart from the other services.”

Village Living 30 • May 2024
Cadet Mallie Robinett with her fellow cadets at the United States Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut. Photos by Paul Duddy, courtesy of Mallie Robinett.


CONTINUED from page 1

Samford even had a few moments in the national spotlight, giving Kansas a stern test in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament.

“I don’t think anybody that’s ever been involved with [McMillan] was surprised to see what they were watching that night, when they played Kansas,” said Christian Schweers, a former assistant of McMillan’s.

McMillan, a Mountain Brook native turned legendary high school coach, has reached the apex of his career (for now, anyways) in the place he grew up, surrounded by many of the people who helped him become who he is today.

And he’s not planning on changing that any time soon.


Nearly everything McMillan has achieved in his basketball career to this point has been confined to a pretty tight radius. He grew up near English Village in Mountain Brook and began playing basketball at the Shades Valley YMCA two miles away.

He played basketball in town through his school days at Mountain Brook High School — graduating in 2002 — then embarked on a college career at Birmingham-Southern College, a 10-minute drive from home.

Following his playing days, he returned to Mountain Brook High School as the junior varsity coach before ascending to the varsity job for 12 years. In those 12 years, his teams had unprecedented success, reaching the state finals seven times and winning five state championships.

He was named the head coach at Samford in April 2020 and has been there the last four years. How far is that from McMillan’s childhood home? Two miles.

“All the people who helped raise me, all of them that taught me so much about life, I’ve learned those lessons right here in this city,” he said.


McMillan often tells the story of his initial meeting upon taking the reins of the Mountain Brook High program. He told parents, players and everyone else in the room that he was going to do something that had never been done at Mountain Brook: win a state championship.

He did more than that, establishing the Spartans as one of the nation’s premier high school programs, a status that remains today, a few years after he departed.

He took that same mindset to Samford, when many doubted that a coach with only high school experience could win at the Division I college level.

“I’ve always been confident in what I was doing, because at the end of the day, I know how hard we work,” McMillan said.

In McMillan’s first year at Mountain Brook, the Spartans went 18-12. After that, they never won fewer than 23 games in a season — but that doesn’t mean it was smooth sailing.

“It took us five years to win a regional game, and that year, we won the [first] state championship,” he said. “Sometimes you’ve got to lay the foundation, and that’s the hardest thing.”

McMillan had to lay a similar foundation at Samford, a program that had not experienced much success in the previous two decades. Even throughout a rocky first season (which the pandemic certainly did nothing to help), he believed in the direction the program was going.

He has since won three consecutive SoCon Coach of the Year awards.

“We’re winning now because we held the standards of the program in the highest regard that first year,” he said. “That year was the reason we are able to win today.”

Schweers sees some striking similarities in what McMillan is doing at the college level.

“It feels like Mountain Brook 2.0,” Schweers said.


Upon taking the job at Samford, McMillan wanted to surround himself with people he knew he could trust, people he knew would work as hard as he does and people who knew him well.

Associate head coach Mitch Cole, assistant coach Dave Good, special assistant to the head Duane Reboul and director of internal

operations Skip Wellborn are among McMillan’s staff at Samford and are guys who have been on the same journey for a long time.

McMillan played for Reboul and Cole at Birmingham-Southern, while Good and Wellborn coached with him at Mountain Brook over the years before joining him at Samford.

“Bucky’s greatest strength is his loyalty to the death, almost,” Schweers said. “He’s got so many relationships. They have grounded him.”

Then there are coaches like Schweers, Tyler Davis and Stu Stuedeman. All three were assistants for varying time periods under McMillan at Mountain Brook, and all three are presently in the midst of successful head-coaching tenures.

Davis is the current head coach at Mountain Brook and Stuedeman is at Cullman, with both claiming state championships in recent years. Schweers is at Huntsville, most recently taking the Panthers to the state final four.

They all cut their teeth “working with” McMillan, as Stuedeman calls it.

Each tells stories of how hard McMillan works, the late hours that he obsessively watches film and the — for lack of a better

term — epiphanies he has that instill confidence in everyone around him.

Davis takes pride in what he and McMillan have helped create at Mountain Brook, but Davis is also an alumnus of Samford, so he has enjoyed seeing the resurrection of his old college program as well.

Davis was out of coaching when McMillan brought him on staff, and he recalls a coach dedicated to the details.

“We were never worried about the results,” Davis said. “It was unrealistic to play a perfect game, but Bucky was meticulous on the details. He would never leave anything uncovered.”

One of Mountain Brook’s most notable wins came in 2018 against IMG Academy out of Florida. The night (or morning, more accurately) before the game, the Spartans coaching staff was collectively putting together a plan to take on such an elite team.

“Bucky just stands up and says, ‘We got them,’” Stuedeman recalled. “‘We’re going to win this game and we’re going to do it this way.’ It’s 3 a.m., you’re tired, but there was such an energizing feeling hearing him say that.”

Schweers has a similar story from 2013, the year Mountain Brook won its first state title. The Spartans had to beat Lee-Huntsville in the regional final on the road to that title, but there was no shortage of doubt leading up to the title game.

“Bucky had been pulling these crazy hours and I remember staying up as late as I could, or we’d be at the office until midnight, and no one was all that confident,” he said. “He comes in the day before and he’s got all this confidence, saying, ‘I got it. I know we’re going to win and here’s how.’

“I really think that was him doing what he does best, and that’s inspiring people to do things they didn’t think they could do.”

Stuedeman has a term for that type of thing. “It’s Bucky’s genius,” he said.


Any coach who has success at a mid-major program is going to be mentioned for jobs at bigger schools, and McMillan’s name was mentioned in reference to a few jobs this spring. But he reaffirmed his commitment to Samford by signing a contract extension in late March.

It’s not lost on McMillan how many of the people in his life are still able to have a frontrow seat to his journey today. His parents and siblings were along for the ride all season. Many of the men on staff with him now have been a part of his basketball story for years on end.

“They’ve impacted me in a way and God gave me a platform to pour back into so many,” he said. “And very rarely does it happen that those lessons are all taught in a radius of five miles. It’s pretty unique.”

McMillan may not need to leave his hometown to continue building something great. There are examples in college basketball of mid-major programs creating long-lasting relevance on the national scene. Programs like Gonzaga, Creighton and Butler are just a few to make that ascension.

Who’s to say Samford can’t be added to that list in the coming years?

“I like Samford a lot and we’ve got a good thing going,” McMillan said. “I feel like I’ve got a lot of my best friends coaching with me. You’re in your home city, you’re winning and it’s so much dang fun right now.”

Above: Samford University head coach Bucky McMillan during the first round of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament in game on March 21 in Salt Lake City, Utah. Photo courtesy of Samford University Athletics. May 2024 31
Left: Bucky McMillan, center, and the 2028-19 Mountain Brook boys basketball coaching staff following the Spartans’ fifth state championship title in March 2019. Photo courtesy of Stu Stuedeman.
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