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Alabama League of Municipalities Announces 2023 Alabama Communities of Excellence STAR Award Recipients

December 4, 2023

ACE Star AwardsMONTGOMERY – The Alabama League of Municipalities announced the Alabama Communities of Excellence STAR Award recipients at its annual Municipal Leadership Institute and graduation/awards ceremonies on November 8, 2023, in Orange Beach. The League presents the ACE STAR Awards to acknowledge ACE advisory board members, ambassadors, community participants and volunteers who have gone above and beyond in assisting the organization and the communities they serve.

ACE was established in 2002 as a 501(c)(3) organization to provide technical assistance to select communities with populations ranging from 2,000 to 18,000 in an effort to strengthen long-term economic success. Through a comprehensive, three-phase approach, ACE uses the collective expertise of its partner organizations – ranging from state agencies and associations to banks, utilities, universities and others – to foster unique community development programs.

“We are proud to recognize four outstanding leaders as the recipients of our 2023 Alabama Communities of Excellence STAR Awards - Mayor Phil Segraves, Mayor Sheldon Day, Melissa Perault and Holle Smith. Each of them has dedicated countless hours assisting their communities take advantage of the educational and comprehensive resources the ACE program provides,” Greg Cochran, executive director of the League, said. “Congratulations and thank you to this year’s honorees for supporting our mission of helping all communities become a place where businesses want to invest and families want to live, work, play and prosper.”

ACE STAR Award Recipients for 2023 include:

  • 2023 Outstanding ACE Mayor - Mayor Phil Segraves of Guin

    Mayor Segraves was selected for this honor because of his leadership in helping Guin receive its ACE designation in 2005; helping to update downtown Guin to attract new businesses; leading efforts to obtain over a million dollars in grant money for lighting, sidewalks, streets and traffic signal posts; and supporting the creation of four beautiful murals in Guin. He has served as mayor for 19 years. He is a past president of the League and currently serves on its board of directors.

  • 2023 Outstanding ACE Ambassador - Melissa Perault of U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development Ozark Area Office

    Melissa is an avid supporter of ACE. ACE Ambassadors are the boots-on-the-ground experts dispatched to communities during Phase 1 of the program. She has written support letters and participated in all Ozark community meetings involved with their strategic planning process. Additionally, she was integral in helping the ACE program apply, and receive, a United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development Grant in 2020. This grant helped 10 ACE communities update their strategic plans over the course of 18 months.

  • 2023 Outstanding ACE Local Coordinator - Holle Smith of the Ozark Dale County Economic Development Corporation

    This award recognizes a local coordinator which is a community participant appointed local coordinator by the mayor and who has performed exceptionally while participating in the ACE program. The city of Ozark has been working on its designation to become an ACE Community since 2021. Holle skillfully assisted the city in navigating the city through the ACE process and guided their strategic planning initiative.

  • 2023 Outstanding ACE Leadership Award - Mayor Sheldon Day of Thomasville

    This award recognizes an individual who has provided exceptional leadership for the ACE program. Since he was elected to office in 1996, Mayor Day has strived to promote the city of Thomasville, whether it be economic development, public awareness of the services provided by the city and businesses, improvement in business appearances, promotion of schools and recreation or infrastructure enhancements on the local and state level. He led the city in earning its ACE designation in 2007 and helps to promote and mentor other municipal officials interested in the ACE program. He serves on the League’s Board of Directors.

Now under the purview of the Alabama League of Municipalities, this year marks 21 years of ACE providing the resources and knowledge for small communities across the state to focus on the importance of planning, leadership development and broad-based community engagement. Community leaders are provided with training and workshops to develop vision and mission statements, implementation strategies and a sustainable leadership development program. ACE assigns each community with a team of experts from the ACE Associates Council that guide them with an implementation strategy as they work through the program.

The ACE Advisory Board was supported by the following entities in 2023: Alabama Department of Commerce; Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs; Alabama Mountain Lakes Tourist Association, Alabama Municipal Electric Authority; Alabama Power Company; Alabama Small Business Development Center Network; Auburn University – Government and Economic Development Institute; David Mathews Center for Civic Life; Goodwyn, Mills and Cawood, Inc.; Regions Bank; Spire; The University of Alabama Center for Economic Development; The University of West Alabama, and the United States Department of Agriculture – Rural Development (USDA-RD).

For more information about ACE, visit or contact ACE Program Coordinator Mary Jackson at View previous award winners, here.