Meet the Alabama Board of Rehabilitation Services

The Alabama Board of Rehabilitation Services is comprised of seven members, with one from each Congressional district. Of these, three members must have a disability, one must be the parent of a child with a disability and three members must be from business and industry. Biographies of the current board members are below.

Stephen G. Kayes
District 1, Mobile

Stephen G. KayesDr. Stephen G. Kayes, who was paralyzed in car-bicycle accident as a young man, is a professor in the Department of Cell Biology and Neuroscience at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine in Mobile. He holds a joint secondary appointment in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology, and he is a member of the Center for Lung Biology. His teaching and research experience includes positions at Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, The University of Iowa College of Medicine and Vanderbilt University College of Medicine. Dr. Kayes is the author of numerous scientific articles, book chapters and theses. He has given many seminars, talks and lectures in his areas of expertise while participating in educational symposia around the nation including talks at Upjohn Pharmaceutical Company and the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research. He is currently the president-elect of the American Society of Parasitologists, the nation’s oldest scientific society dedicated to the study of animal parasites.

Dr. Kayes has been a longtime proponent of diversity, especially as it relates to people with disabilities. His advocacy for this often-overlooked population includes involvement at the university, municipal and national levels where he is a member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science Task Force on Scientists with Disabilities. He received a special award from the president of Vanderbilt University for his assistance with Vanderbilt’s response to one of the first-ever federal audits of accessibility of a university campus under Sections 503 and 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.

Jimmie Varnado
District 2, Montgomery
Board Chairperson, 2014

Jimmie Varnado, a native of Mobile, is branch manager/assistant vice president with Sterling Bank in Montgomery. Prior to joining Sterling, Varnado served in the U.S. Air Force for 28 years, retiring in 2000 as a lieutenant colonel. He has a bachelor of arts in business administration from Dillard University and a master of science in personnel management from Troy University.

Varnado is active in his community and has been honored for volunteer service by Junior League of Montgomery, Outreach Ministry, and the Alpha Upsilon Chapter of the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity. In addition to serving on the Alabama Board of Rehabilitation Services, he has been a board member of the Central Montgomery Optimist Club, board member and treasurer of the River Region United Way, a member of the Board of Directors of the American Red Cross, and vice president of Leadership Montgomery.

Penny Piland Foster
District 3, Auburn

Penny Piland Foster's personal experience as the mother of a teen-age daughter with Down syndrome gives her a unique perspective on disability services in Alabama.  She has been a vocal and tireless advocate for Maggie as well as other children with special needs as a member of Alabama’s Interagency Coordinating Council, the Alabama Council on Developmental Disabilities, the Exceptional Outreach Organization, and the Montgomery Area Down Syndrome Outreach Group, and as the vice president of the Exceptional Foundation of East Alabama. 

She is the founder of The Journey School, a nonprofit inclusive preschool, as well as a co-founder of TEAM 21, a networking group for parents of children with Down syndrome; and Blessings on the Plains, a nonprofit day program for adults with disabilities now known as the Exceptional Foundation of East Alabama.

Mrs. Foster has a bachelor of science from the University of South Alabama, a master’s degree in early childhood and elementary education from the University of Alabama, and has taught kindergarten as well as elementary school. 

Leah Patterson Lust
District 4, Cullman

Leah Patterson Lust, a native of Cullman and former probate judge for Cullman County, is a licensed graduate social worker who serves as a counselor at The Delta Center in Cullman. At The Delta Center, she provides services to individuals and families in the area of crisis intervention, marriage and family, substance abuse, and grief and bereavement. Lust previously served as director of social work at Cullman Regional Medical Center and as a staff social worker at DCH Regional Medical Center in Tuscaloosa.

Lust, who earned a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree from the University of Alabama, is a long-time advocate for the rights of people with disabilities. She has served on the State of Alabama Rehabilitation Council and as chair of the State of Alabama Independent Living Council. She is a current member of the board of the Day Star House and a founding director of OASIS: Suicide Prevention Outreach.

Eddie C. Williams
District 5, Huntsville

Williams has enjoyed a long career with one of Alabama’s most prestigious technology companies, Sanmina-SCI, a global leader in electronics manufacturing services. He is currently senior avionics program manager at Sanmina-SCI’s Defense and Aerospace Division facility in Huntsville.

In addition to his experience in the state and international business community, Williams has been very involved in a number of organizations, at both the community and national levels. His volunteer activities include serving as chairman of the board of directors of the Madison-Marshall County chapter of the American Red Cross, board member of Huntsville’s Downtown Rescue Mission, board member of the Greater Huntsville Chapter of the 100 Black Men of America, and member of the National Management Association, the leadership development organization for which he is national vice president.

As the parent of an adult son with autism, Williams also has a very personal knowledge and understanding of disability. In addition, he has the broader knowledge and understanding gained by serving as board member and treasurer of the North Alabama Autism Society as well as former chairman of the board of Phoenix (formerly the Huntsville Rehabilitation Foundation).

Williams represents business and industry on the board.

Charles Wilkinson
District 6, Birmingham

Charles Wilkinson, a respected member of the Birmingham business community, has extensive experience as a human resource professional and consultant, which gives him valuable insight into the issues related to workers with disabilities. 

Wilkinson, the father of a 10-year-old daughter named Bergen with Down syndrome, has been a vocal and tireless advocate for workers with disabilities. In 1990 as a vice president of Colonial BancGroup, he worked with ADRS to implement the requirements of the newly enacted Americans with Disabilities Act.

Wilkinson serves as the current chairman of the Alabama Business Leadership Network (ABLN), a group that links Alabama businesses committed to disability issues. Through ABLN, he collaborates with other Alabama business leaders to provide resources, information links, and qualified job candidates to employers throughout the state. He is actively involved in the United States Business Leadership Network, which connects him with business leaders from around the country.

The University of Alabama graduate earned a bachelor of science in commerce and business administration-human resource management and is a member of the North Alabama Society for Human Resource Management and the national Society for Human Resource Management. He is a certified Senior Professional in Human Resources and a Senior Certified Professional.

Mitch Strickland
District 7, Tuscaloosa

Strickland is a powerlifter who has won gold medals at several national and international competitions. He received a degree in public relations in 1995 from the University of Alabama. He was Alabama's 1991 Wheelchair Athlete of the Year and a 1991 inductee into the Dixie Wheelchair Sports Hall of Fame.
In addition to his involvement with ADRS, Strickland serves on the board of directors of Wheelchair Sports USA as well as the Paralympic Athlete's Advisory Committee.
He represents people with disabilities on the ADRS board.



Meeting minutes

2017

2016

2015

2014

2013

2012

2011