Inaugural Unum Fellows Cohort Announced


October 1, 2020

Ryan Berni

(NEW ORLEANS, LA) – Today, Mitch Landrieu’s E Pluribus Unum (EPU) announced its inaugural class of UNUM Fellows. The select group of 14 accomplished and diverse Southern elected leaders will embark on a year-long journey to address inequitable and discriminatory policies and practices within their communities. Uniquely positioned to redesign broken systems, these elected leaders begin this signature program amidst a renewed national movement towards racial and economic justice.

“Elected leaders play a crucial role in setting the tone for communities on discussions of racial and economic equity,” said Landrieu, the former mayor of New Orleans. “Not long ago, I was in a very similar position as our fellows. I know what’s at stake, and I know how important it is to have support and access to resources, experts and tools. That’s where EPU comes in—we designed a program that creates the space for local elected leaders to better realize their power to make lasting change, and leverage the invaluable support of peers, expert advisors and community partners to do so.

As part of EPU’s foundational research journey in 2018, the organization found that people place a great deal of hope in their local political leadership and better embrace the concept of racial equity when local leadership actively seeks to advance it. Through this opportunity, fellows will gain or expand upon their understanding of how to address racial and economic equity within communities. Each UNUM Fellow will learn from nationally-recognized experts, consult with peers across the South and design and implement an equity-based project that will create sustainable, meaningful change. Funding will be provided to support the implementation of fellowship projects.

The inaugural UNUM Fellows are:

  • Wardine T. Alexander—City Councilor, Council President Pro Tempore, Birmingham, AL
  • Willie F. Brooks, Jr.County Commissioner, Shelby County, TN
  • Jane Castor—Mayor, Tampa, FL
  • Katie Cristol—County Board Member, Arlington County, VA
  • Byron Gipson—Solicitor of the Fifth Circuit, Richland and Kershaw Counties, SC
  • Reid Goldstein—School Board Member, Arlington County, VA
  • Dorothy L. Heffron—School Board Member and Vice Chair, Chesterfield County School Board, VA
  • Keith James—Mayor, West Palm Beach, FL
  • Shayla Nealy—City Councilmember (Mayor Pro Tem), Union City, GA
  • Steven L. Reed—Mayor, Montgomery, AL
  • Brian E. Rowland—City Councilmember (Mayor Pro Tempore), Prairie View, TX
  • Jennifer Vidrine—Mayor, Ville Platte, LA
  • Bettina Umstead—School Board Member and Board Chair, Durham Public Schools Board of Education, Durham, NC
  • Virgil Watkins, Jr.County Commissioner, Macon-Bibb County Board of Commission, Macon-Bibb County, GA

To learn more about UNUM Fellows, visit


About E Pluribus Unum

Founded by former New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu in 2018, E Pluribus Unum (EPU) is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization whose mission is to build a more just, equitable, and inclusive South, uprooting the barriers that have long divided the region by race and class. Incubated at Emerson Collective, EPU is focused on changing the divisive narratives that perpetuate systemic and interpersonal racism, cultivating and empowering courageous leaders who are advancing racial equity, and championing transformative policy change. Learn more at