Madison County Commissioner Violet Edwards selected as 2022 Alumni of Achievement award for College of Business

Violet Edwards
Madison County District Six Commissioner, Violet Edwards.
Michael Mercier | UAH

Alumna Violet Edwards (M.B.A., 2014), Madison County Commissioner, District Six, has been selected as the 2022 Alumni of Achievement award winner for the College of Business at The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH), a part of The University of Alabama System.

District 6 is a north central urban district in Huntsville, AL., running primarily from Governors Drive and University Drive, to north on Rideout Road to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr Highway, Bob Wade Lane to the north and then south along the Alabama A&M University ridge to Meridian Street and Holmes Avenue.

Edwards was elected to office in 2020, becoming the first Black woman to serve on the county commission. She is well-known in the local non-profit sector for her tireless work with various agencies, including Christmas Charities Year-Round (CCYR) and the North Alabama Coalition for the Homeless (NACH).

She says her inspiration to get to where she is today has not come from a particular individual, but rather from life experiences.

“I have lived in extreme poverty. I have lived in the middle class,” she says. “I've gone to community colleges, graduated from four-year colleges and experienced dropping out. I have been the VIP at events, and I've worked the coat check. All these experiences have inspired me to keep moving from point A to point B and not be afraid of what is behind the next door.”

The alumna draws on a wealth of unique career skills to aid her current position as well, including knowledge accrued from a 13-year journalism career (both television and radio), non-profit management, working as a stay-at-home-mom, university marketing, events coordinating, teaching as an adjunct lecturer and university development officer.

The challenging pathways her life has taken her down have proved to be the driving force that have propelled her to the position she holds today.

“Frustration, hope, disappointment and determination led me to my current position as a county commissioner,” the alumna says. “I was frustrated by the state of my community and disappointed at how issues were being handled or ignored. I am very active in the community, and the issues discussed in my circles were not getting addressed. So I made my list of priorities and set out to bring about change. I hoped for a better tomorrow and was determined to see our community thrive.”

The alumna has since compiled a stellar track record of advocacy, service and leadership that has directly impacted Huntsville and the residents of Madison County's District 6.

“It is an honor to represent District 6!” she says. “The county government is different in that the commission does not make laws. This leads people to think our only decisions are about roads. While that is a large part of it, all six districts in Madison County are different. No commissioner's contribution and advocacy will look the same, because our districts are not identical. Representing District 6 means advocating for our needs, seeing to our priorities and ensuring that the challenges unique to the district are not overlooked in the big picture.”

Commissioner Edwards has compiled a notable record for leadership, including, President, North Alabama Coalition for the Homeless; Chartering President, Madison County Chapter of Mocha Moms Inc.; Alumna, Leadership Huntsville/Madison County – Connect Class 14; Volunteer, Leadership Huntsville/Madison County; Alumna, United Way of Madison County - Leadership Social Services Class 4; Local Coordinator, Council on International Educational Exchange; and 2nd Vice-President, Girl Scouts of North-Central Alabama, Inc. She is currently a board member for Girls Inc., supporting Leadership Greater Huntsville - Class 36 and is President of the Academy of Academics and Arts Band and Choir Association.

The UAH grad likes to point out that working hard and putting one’s creativity on display can make a big difference – a difference that early on earned her praise and encouragement from a special mentor.

“I was a stay-at-home mother of three when I accepted a part-time student worker job in the dean's office at the College of Business,” the alumna recalls. “While my self-respect was intact, I questioned whether or not I had what it took to be a successful graduate student. I threw myself into my studies, my family and that part-time job. I will never forget when I got word that the dean, Dr. Caron St. John, had boasted to senior faculty about the work ethic, creativity and business acumen displayed, even in that modest position. She told them that one day I was going to run a multibillion-dollar corporation. I was so honored, I cried!

“I had gone from the face of a television station and the voice of a radio station to passing out cotton candy to people half my age,” Edwards remembers. “To have someone of her esteem see where I was going and not limit me to the ground floor where I was made me work that much harder. Dr. St. John reached out shortly after I won the election to congratulate me, and I let her know that I still plan on running a multinational, multibillion-dollar corporation – but I needed to take a slight detour!”

Throughout her career, Edwards has amassed honors and awards in recognition of her efforts, such as Community Hero Award from Oakwood University; Young Professional of the Year Finalist, Chamber of Commerce of HSV/Madison County; Alabama Black Achievers Award in Non-profit; Employee of the Year, WAAY- TV 31; Best Spot News, Alabama Associated Press; and Best Feature Honorable Mention, Arkansas Associated Press.

Her wide breadth of experiences gives her a unique perspective on handling the myriad daily tasks she sees in serving a constituency of 58,000 in District 6.

“I spend my days listening, learning and advocating,” she says. “Every day I hear from business owners or non-profits with a vision, plan or a need in the community. Part of my day typically involves decisions about allocating funds to benefit our community. District 6 oversees the operations of a senior wellness center, a community garden and a district shed. Along with oversight of these initiatives, many days consist of county meetings, program meetings and ensuring my 24 employees have what's needed to be successful.”

Edwards also believes it’s especially important to be out and about, to see, hear and learn firsthand what her district needs by interacting with the people she serves.

“I stay engaged in the community by attending ceremonial events and organization meetings to support the constituency,” she says. “I feel it is important for my constituents to know not only how much I appreciate their contributions to the county, but also to hear their concerns. In return, they welcome me. I have been invited to participate in everything from coin tosses at football games, to business ribbon cuttings, to birthday parties celebrating centenarian milestones. Those are the fun days.”

The commissioner is married to fellow alumnus Anthony Edwards of Selma, AL. (UAH ’99 and ’02). “Together we have three beautiful children, Vivica (UAH, ‘22), Myles and Elijah. My sister Raven Perry-Beach is a practicing attorney in Huntsville-Madison County, Edwards says. “My parents, Dr. Jeff Ruffin and Sandi Perry, are ministers and serve the community in various capacities.”

She says her favorite memory of attending UAH as a student was “decorating the BAB for holidays and homecoming. As a GTA, I worked with undergrad student ambassadors to engage students, prospects, family and friends. Whether it was tree decorating for Christmas or cutting out cardboard designs for Paint the Town Blue, we worked together as a team to do beautiful projects and put smiles on people's faces.”

Edwards enjoys reading, traveling and the outdoors. “As the mother of two active boys, you can find me on many sidelines, in many bleachers, in many audiences and in a perpetual carline,” she says with a smile.

Her true passion will always be service. “While different seasons in my life have led me to different areas of service, it is important to me to be an aide and advocate. As a commissioner, I advocate for 50K-plus people and their share of funding for their communities, schools and services. It is a long way from my beginnings as a Girl Scouts volunteer!”

When asked if she could share one piece of advice with a current UAH student, Edwards is quick to counsel looking within to find your unique place in life and holding strong to that personal vision.

“To current students, I say, don't let anyone put you in a box – including yourself. Kudos to people who find their perfect career path for decades to come. But if that is not you, don't fret. Pivoting is a part of life. Every career field I have been in has prepared me for where I am today. Give your all to the season you are in, and when it no longer speaks to your spirit, it is perfectly fine to change. From somebody who has been a journalist, a nonprofit director, a small business owner, an adjunct lecturer and an elected official – I still don't know what I want to be when I grow up! But I am having a blast figuring it out.”

When she takes a moment from her whirlwind schedule to take a peek over the horizon and see where the future leads, Edwards knows she has found a home in helping others.

“I have accepted that service is in my blood,” the alumna says. “My entire adult life I've been on a board or a committee. My journey as a public servant is just getting started. I cannot predict where I will land in the future, but I do know that it will include serving others.”




Kelly Myers

Russ Nelson