Russell’s Ramblings

Those who do not hear the music might think the dancer mad

Driving Home Your Point


Granddaddy Russell in his garden

Yesterday on a Face Book Page called I77 Animal House, I was taken to task by an anonymous poster who said my constant criticism of Governor Pat McCrory and his reluctance to cancel the I77 Cintra Contract was in a word “Disrespectful.” While it is true the Governor can, with a stroke of the pen, cancel this very bad deal, he has been steadfast in his refusal to listen to the Lake Norman Town Boards, State Legislative Officials, and more importantly the voters who sent him to Raleigh in the first place.

While our chamber of commerce and business leaders have made the case why this is bad for business, now the NC Justice Department is investigating the company who was awarded the contract by NCDOT.

I have served the Lake Norman Chamber as its executive for twenty years with the primary objective of leaving this community and region better than I found it. Unfortunately the Chamber’s earlier support of this P3 Project, and my very real insistence we had to go along with this bad plan, was a mistake. Settling for the lessor of two bad deals still leaves you with a bad deal.

One wonders whether the anonymous poster is just caught up in partisanship and will go to any lengths to toe the party line or was she one of the former elected or community leaders who pushed this project through and now cringes at the notion she too may have to admit a grave mistake.

Ironically, in deriding me for my position she said in her post, “Your granddaddy would be proud.”

Anyone who has followed my career knows I like to write and many of those stories and articles have included stories about my Grandfather Russell who lost his battle with Alzheimer’s more than a decade ago.

I loved working in the garden with granddaddy. From the time I was a little boy, he had me digging post holes and then chogging the dirt.  No matter how deep I dug those holes, he always insisted just a little deeper.

A few weeks ago, I was visiting my father down at the farm, watching the cows that would graze close to our white picket fence. We had to tear down the fence that granddaddy built and replace it with a plastic version that can better withstand the elements.  But looking at the fence, I couldn’t help but recall one Saturday afternoon I was helping granddaddy repair the old one.

As we toiled that hot afternoon making repairs, I shared with my grandfather problems I was having managing the staff of an office furniture company. We had all agreed on sales goals and for a while things ran smoothly.  But after a few months, our sales staff settled back into old routines and performance declined.

After listening to me vent, granddaddy stopped his hammering, took off his old work gloves, and wiped the sweat from his brow. He looked at me for a second, gathering his thoughts, before he asked me to take a nail and strike it on the head as hard as I could into a board.

I did as he asked.  He then asked me to take the claw of the hammer and pull the nail out. Once again, I did as he directed, finding it a fairly easy task as the nail was driven in just so far.

Granddaddy then asked me to take a new nail and drive it repeatedly into the board until the head was flush with the board. Upon completing the task he asked me to remove that nail as I had the other.

I could not.  The nail was flush with the board and there was no leverage to remove the nail. My grandfather in his wisdom explained just as I drove that nail in repeatedly, you sometime have to drive your point home with colleagues, staff… and sometimes a stubborn Governor.

Some might call it disrespectful to question the foolishness of a fifty year bad deal.  People can certainly draw their own conclusions.  I prefer to look at it as fulfilling a promise I made to the businesses and citizens of Lake Norman. I will do everything I can in the time I have left at this chamber of commerce to leave my community and region a better place than I found it.

And to that end, I will on every occasion I have, drive home the point – Toll Lanes at Lake Norman are bad for our citizens, bad for our communities, and bad for business.

Would Granddaddy Russell be proud? He didn’t quit until the job was done and neither will I.

Bill Russell

February 2, 2016 - Posted by | Leadership Lessons, Politics, Uncategorized | , , , , ,


  1. Bill,

    As our beloved (and often criticized) NFL Panthers #KeepPounding I encourage you to do likewise! Leadership bears the burden of criticism and public opinion and I admit that I don’t always agree with you, but on this issue I stand beside you 100%!
    As my career has blossomed into a major position w/ a Charlotte company, and my commute to and from my home in Troutman is greatly impacted by the I-77 Tolls Fiasco, along with the negative financial loss to our communities. It’s hard to understand exactly WHY this is so supported, when the outcry to STOP is ignored and “swept under the rug”.
    When one learns the details of a project, aspects are revealed that offset previous beliefs and opinions change, one of the most impressive things you have done lately was admit the mistake to initially support the I-77 Tolls and being open and transparent about your change of heart.
    WHY IS IT, that we work so hard to motivate individuals into seeing our point and when that person decides to switch views on the subject, we call them out as being a “Flip-Flopper” how absurd… You did the right thing in changing your position on this issue, I wish other leaders in our community/state would do likewise.

    Lastly: If you going to “Call someone out” have the guts to sign your name to it!

    Keep Pounding Bill Russell
    Your Grandfather IS VERY PROUD of you!

    Kevin Smith
    Marketing Manager
    Heritage Printing

    Comment by Kevin @ Heritage | February 2, 2016 | Reply

  2. This is great! Thanks Bill. Let’s not forget that McCrory is a public servant who works for us. He is NOT a king or some sort of despot who we need to respect and be in fear of. He is a man who has lost his want and who seems to have forgotten that his job is to serve…not dictate or rule us.

    Comment by George | February 2, 2016 | Reply

  3. Love this. Hammer on Bill!

    Comment by Anette powell | February 2, 2016 | Reply

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