Meet the Inaugural UNUM Fellows

UNUM Fellows’ first cohort includes a diverse set of Southern elected leaders, from rural mayors to suburban school board members to county commissioners and big-city mayors. This select group will embark on a year-long journey to address inequitable and discriminatory policies and practices within their communities. Uniquely positioned to redesign broken systems, they begin this signature program amidst a renewed national movement towards racial and economic justice.

Wardine Alexander

Wardine T. Alexander

City Councilor, Council President Pro Tempore, Birmingham, AL

Learn more about Wardine

Willie Brook, Jr.

Willie F. Brooks, Jr.

County Commissioner, Shelby County, TN

Learn more about Willie

Katie Cristol

Katie Cristol

County Board Member, Arlington County, VA

Learn more about Katie

Byron Gipson

Byron Gipson

Solicitor of the Fifth Circuit, Richland and Kershaw Counties, SC

Learn more about Byron

Reid Goldstein

Reid Goldstein

School Board Member, Arlington County, VA

Learn more about Reid

Dorothy Heffron

Dorothy L. Heffron

School Board Member and Vice-Chair, Chesterfield County School Board, Chesterfield County, VA

Learn more about Dorothy

Keith James

Keith James

Mayor, West Palm Beach, FL

Learn more about Keith

Steven Reed

Steven L. Reed

Mayor, Montgomery, AL

Learn more about Steven

Brian E. Rowland

Brian E. Rowland

Mayor, Prairie View, TX
Learn more about Brian

Jennifer Vidrine

Jennifer Vidrine

Mayor, Ville Platte, LA
Learn more about Jennifer

Bettina Umstead

Bettina Umstead

School Board Member and Board Chair, Durham Public Schools Board of Education, Durham, NC
Learn more about Bettina

Virgil Watkins, Jr.

Virgil Watkins, Jr.

County Commissioner, Macon-Bibb County Board of Commission, Macon-Bibb County, GA
Learn more about Virgil

About the Unum Fellows Program

As part of E Pluribus Unum’s foundational research journey in 2018, we 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 UNUM Fellows, a signature program of E Pluribus Unum, elected leaders 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.

While success will look different in each community, Fellows will leave the program equipped to:

  • Foster meaningful participation among key community partners and leaders to drive the advancement of equity goals and projects;
  • Advance initiatives—beginning with their Fellowship project—that address racial and economic disparities in communities;
  • Cultivate long-term visions for equity within their communities that outlive any single term or administration;
  • Talk about racial and economic equity in ways that advance discourse, with a common language and understanding; and
  • Act with urgency with the support of a strong peer network and community.

Program Partners Include

  • Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program;
  • Center for American Progress (CAP);
  • The Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP);
  • FrameWorks Institute;
  • Government Alliance on Race and Equity (GARE), a project of Race Forward;
  • Hope Policy Institute;
  • National League of Cities University (NLCU);
  • PolicyLink; and
  • What Works Cities