Russell’s Ramblings

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

Words do Matter

Like many of you, I have been following the back and forth antics in Washington between President Donald Trump and our leaders in Congress. The news media, Facebook, and Twitter are all inundated with pundits, politicians and sometimes “Friends” weighing in on who’s gone too far, who’s to blame, and just how wrong the other side is on the issue of the day.

amRegardless of what political party with which you may affiliate – you likely believe it’s the other political party and its leadership who could or would be leading this country in a direction which will surely spell doom for this and future generations.

I think both sides have gone way too far in this war of words and political theater. The President and Members of Congress may be playing to their political base, but it is not leadership and certainly not the example we need to send to our young people.

I am reminded of the adage – “Leadership is doing the right thing when no one is watching.”

As a kid growing up in Rock Hill, South Carolina, I still recall the taunts and jeers from other children who picked on me for being a small, thin, and somewhat puny little kid. Today, that’s called bullying and bullies are often harshly rebuked. Back then – it was toughen up or fight back.

Their harsh words stung and holding back the tears that welled up in my eyes, I countered the familiar refrain, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but your words will never hurt me!” But they did hurt… badly, and while time has faded the scars, the memories still linger.

Our nation’s history is filled with patriotism and prejudice. There is much to take pride in and much to give pause over. The indomitable spirit as Americans stormed the beaches at Normandy, led the breakthroughs in technology, medicine, and space exploration and emerged as the preeminent superpower and beacon of Democracy is the envy of much of the world. Conversely, the treatment of African Americans, Native Americans, and Japanese Americans are stains on a glorious landscape of unprecedented achievement.

Our political leadership toss around words like “racism” and “sexist” so cavalierly that it begins to lose its impact. If someone disagrees in a partisan or philosophical discussion, then they must simply be insensitive or just plain ignorant.Pic A National

This past August (August 6th) an event took taking place across this country.  No, it wasn’t a protest or Antifa demonstration. Instead, it was an opportunity for our local citizens, and in particular families, to participate in National Night Out. The community event is a night where local police and public safety officers, including our firefighters and EMT’s, come together each year with our community, as we work to create safer communities for our families and businesses.

While we may not be able to change the tone in Washington, together we can set an example at home with our children – the generation who will inherit this nation – and say Thank You to the Men and Women who bravely serve and protect us each and every day.  If you missed this year’s event – it will take place again the first Tuesday in August 2020.

President Ronald Reagan said, “It’s not enough to be equal in the eyes of God, we must be equal in the eyes of each other.” That message can begin one family and one community at a time, and it can start with us here at Lake Norman!

Words can hurt – or they can heal. Perhaps we all need to ask ourselves one thing when we prepare to lay our head on the pillow tonight – “What did our own words do today?”

Bill Russell

September 18, 2019 Posted by | Chamber of Commerce, Politics, Social Causes, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Promise to Keep

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Bill Jr. on Dynamite with William E Russell Sr. – 1966

When I was just a young boy, I would ride my little pony from my Grandparent’s house to my Great-Grandfather’s home. The small white house sat perched high on a hill overlooking the lush pastureland where cattle grazed lazily on those warm summer days.

Great-Granddaddy Adkins would always give me with one piece of “Bazooka Joe Bubble Gum” for the pony ride over to see him. It hardly seems now that such a small token was incentive enough for a little boy, but at the time, it was a coveted treasure and well worth the ride. When he passed away in 1966, the old home which had served our family so well, stood vacant, a silent sentinel guarding the memories of lives lived well.

I found out some time later that the old farm house, which initially had been a log cabin held together by timber and mud, had gone back many generations. It had been deeded to my ancestors during the time of King George of England.

Unfortunately, after Granddaddy Adkin’s death, the proud old manor fell into disrepair and eventually time and mother nature took their toll. The roof sagged, its once sturdy walls collapsed, and a few decades ago it was torn down before the cattle, or worse, a family member or hunter, was hurt venturing into the failing structure.  A house which welcomed back Revolutionary and Civil War Veterans, providing a warm shelter and home for my family for generations, lost its battle against time.

Many Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce Members may not know of the Chamber’s commitment to our historical and cultural past. In 1997, I was contacted by Reverend Jeff Lowrance about joining the Board of The Hugh Torance House and Store in Huntersville.  Rev. Lowrance knew of my passion for history and the store is the oldest standing attraction of such designation in North Carolina.  It also has special interest to me, given its historical place in regional commerce and trade in Mecklenburg County, and specifically Lake Norman.

I have served as President and chaired the Hugh Torance Board since 2007 and all 23 of the Chamber’s Leadership Lake Norman classes have toured the local treasure as has our Junior Leadership program. In addition, the Chamber’s Young Professionals organization recently conducted a very successful fundraiser for the repairs of the House & Store. The Huntersville Town Board has also generously supported efforts to preserve this precious piece of our history and a Grant submission is being reviewed by Lowes Company.

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Bill Russell leads a tour of the Hugh Torance House and Store to Leadership Lake Norman participants.

Mark Twain once said, “We can’t know where we’re going until we know where we’ve been!” While our Chamber is not only committed to the economic well being of our community and region – we will continue to work to enhance our quality of life and protect the cultural and historical past which has made the Lake Norman region a great place to live, work, and visit!

I have watched a piece of my own family history return to the dust from which it came.  It is important that we do not let a true community treasure like the Hugh Torance House & Store meet the same fate. If we do not owe it to the people who settled here, then it is certainly a responsibility we have to the generation who will inherit our community and region next. A debt to our past and a promise to keep for our future!

Bill Russell

September 16, 2019 Posted by | Chamber of Commerce, Personal, Uncategorized | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Making the list

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Steve Gilliland, Motivational Speaker and Best Selling author at the Lake Norman Chamber Small Business Event

This afternoon, while waiting for an appointment, I picked up a recent copy of TIME Magazine’s List of the 100 Most Influential People in America.  I was disappointed again to see that I wasn’t listed. Actually no one I know personally was listed but as every seasoned South Carolina Gamecock fan will attest to – There’s always next Year!

It did make me think about something motivational speaker Steve Gilliland spoke about at last month’s Small Business Luncheon. He asked the 150+ people who attended the event to create a list of what five people (outside of your family) have most influenced your life and left that indelible mark.

It didn’t take me long to ponder. In 1985, I met a man who profoundly shaped who I am and what I do right down to the core. Ray Parlier certainly didn’t look the part. Ray, with ears two sizes bigger than his head and cheeks that always seemed flushed, was the picture of a country boy right out of Bristol, Tennessee. He also had a stutter when he got excited, which seemed to be most of the time!

Put Ray in a room of 100 people and he might just be the 100th person you’d pick to lead your organization or business. However, leave him in the room alone with the group and come back an hour later, and he’d be the one that they would all be huddling around.

Ray began a career as a trainer for the Furman University Paladin Football Team. He went on to be an assistant coach before becoming Athletic Director for the team that won a National Championship.

When he wasn’t coaching, he put in time with a civic group called Jaycees where he led

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Ray Parlier and Bill Russell at the 72nd Annual Meeting – US Junior Chamber of Commerce (Jaycees)

our organization as state president. I had the great  fortune to serve as his Vice President. Ray loved to cite Vince Lombardi quotes and he had us all memorizing the lines that became our mantra – none more important than “Winning is not a sometimes thing…. It’ s an all the time thing…”

As any great coach does – Ray pushed us to excel and reach past the limitations we imposed upon ourselves.  We set goals together, but Ray always seemed to squeeze more out of me than I thought possible.  But perhaps the biggest lesson I learned from Ray was to love your people. If you demonstrate to the people you lead how much you care about them – really care – then, they will help you reach the goals you set, no matter how difficult the task.

This month, the Lake Norman Chamber will hear from just such a man, the new head football coach at UNC Charlotte.  Coach Will Healy, in his first year with the Forty-niners, will discuss how leadership is not about a title or designation, its about the impact you make on the people you lead – whether in the boardroom or the gridiron.

Like Coach Parlier, Coach Healy is a Champion having served as Team Captain on the University of Richmond 2008 FCS National Championship Team.

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Coach Will Healy – UNC Charlotte 49er Football Coach

When I was elected National President of the United States Jaycees, Ray Parlier, along with my father, was by my side. I will never forget the hug I received from Furman’s Athletic Director. His cheeks were a bright pink.  His misty eyes reflecting the bright lights of the stage, and with a smile from ear to ear said, “Remember Bill, love your people.  They’ll love you back.”

It wasn’t hard at all for me to list five of the most influential people who have shaped my life. However, Steve Gilliland left us with one more important thing to consider as he concluded his remarks at our Small Business Luncheon –

“Are you on somebody’s list?”  

W.E. “Bill” Russell, CCE IOM
President

June 4, 2019 Posted by | Chamber of Commerce, Junior Chamber of Commerce (Jaycees), Uncategorized | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Growing Pains” – Lake Norman Chamber May Message to the Membership

A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to appear on a special Town Hall version of WFAE’s Charlotte Talks with Mike Collins. The event, held at CPCC – Merancas Campus, featured our Town Managers, Transportation Planners, NC DOT staff, and Mayors.

The Charlotte Talks program was a discussion on issues ranging from transportation, and education to affordable housing and the pressing need for a magistrate in North Mecklenburg.

Pic c Charlotte-TalksNCDOT’s Scott Cole and Huntersville Transportation Planner Bill Coxe discussed the nearly half billion dollars in approved transportation projects planned for Huntersville, Davidson, and Cornelius and the improvements which will be made to our east- west arteries: Gilead Road, Sam Furr (NC Hwy 73), and Catawba Avenue.

Both pointed out with the improvements to other secondary roads, alternative modes of transportation such as Bus Rapid Transit, Rail, and Bike Paths, and the soon to be opened Managed Lanes – we could see congestion relief.

When Mike Collins asked me directly, what is the message I convey to businesses interested in locating to the Lake Norman region?  I could have taken on the role of cheerleader and sugar coated the issue.  I chose not to do that.

Instead, I responded that I-77 is the “Most Critical Issue” facing our lake communities and the aforementioned projects and alternative means of transportation will not dig us out of the hole we are making when it comes to our diminished quality of life and negative economic impact the Managed Lanes will ensure.

The Toll Lanes will not solve our congestion issue – they will guarantee it! 

As a Chamber of Commerce, we will continue to advocate that the project be finished, and the state buy out the contract and convert one of the proposed Managed Lanes to a Free General-Purpose Lane.  In the meantime, we must harden the shoulders of I-77 and provide additional General-Purpose (Free) lanes which could be used during peak driving times.

Some critics and toll road supporters have likened the efforts of our grass root opposition to tolls as foolhardy, wasted effort, or simply a belief in fairytales. Well, count me as one of the many who still believe in Fairytales!

Neil Gaiman, an English Author said, “Fairytales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.”

We do have a great many dragons facing us as we grow: our transportation challenges, overcrowded schools, affordable housing for our teachers, police, and firemen  – all critical to our basic needs as a community.

However, these are all challenges which come from growth.  I don’t think any of us would rather live in a region that is stagnant and dying such as a rural community that lacks the basic infrastructure to support business and industry.  It would be devastating to live in a community like that where children leave when they graduate from school on a quest to find employment in a different community that is vibrant and growing.

Each of us have a responsibility to leave our community better than we found it. That is our charge and by Working Hard, Working Smart, and Working Together – we will slay those dragons.  They can be beaten. Quite simply, it is the responsibility we owe to the generation who succeed us and we cannot settle for anything less.

Bill Russell

Picture:   Mike Collins and Doug Boraks of WFAE along with Chamber President Bill Russell on the Town Hall Edition of Charlotte Talks. Photo Courtesy of Ellen Stafford, LKNConnect.com

May 9, 2019 Posted by | Chamber of Commerce, Transportation & Road Improvement, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Life Well Lived

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William E Russell Jr and William E. Russell Sr at the Panthers Game

One month ago, I lost my father to cancer. Daddy was much more than a dad. He was my mentor, my confidante, my supporter, my best friend and the inspiration for much of what I have done in my life. My mom has also been a guiding influence and I love her dearly. But as Lewis Grizzard put it best, “My daddy was a pistol and I’m a son of a gun.”

If you’ve been a Chamber Member for a while, you may have read the countless articles and columns I have written about my father and grandfather and the lessons I learned growing up on our family farm. The house and the halls where my father and his father roamed, along with the pastures they trod, and the rich soil we turned in the garden together, hold special memories for me.

My dad, a lifelong member of Bethesda Presbyterian Church, was an Ordained Elder of the church, and served as Clerk of Session. It surprised me when I learned that he did not want a church funeral. Instead, he requested a small graveside service and a visitation of just family and close friends upon his passing.

While my Dad spent much of his lifetime committed to civic service, with years of dedication to the Red Cross, Kiwanis, Jaycees, Little League and other community activities, deep down he was simply a quiet man and was not one for show.  That’s one quality I’ve yet to learn from daddy. I have always struggled with the “humility thing” and since I was young, I kind of thought the world may indeed revolve around me.

Daddy would have been taken aback by the hundreds of people who crammed into Greene’s Funeral Home in Rock Hill on that mournful Saturday afternoon. Jaycee friends from across the state drove hours to visit with our family, and to share in our moment of reflection on the life that had impacted so many in 81 years.

In addition to the family and friends, more than 50 Lake Norman Chamber members also drove down to South Carolina for my father’s funeral. Some were former or current chamber board leadership, others were long time chamber members, and many were Lake Norman neighbors I’ve been lucky enough to meet and call friends. A few never met him, yet they all gave up their Saturday and drove for several hours through the challenges of I-77 for one reason – to show they cared. And to each you who were there on the saddest day of my life, your presence was a comfort that I will never forget.Pic A Dad

I’ve often been asked what makes the Lake Norman Chamber different from any other Chamber. The answer for me has always been simple – We are a family.  We encourage each other when we need inspiration and we’re there for each other when times are tough. And we celebrate together. This month we added to our family at the Chamber with the addition of Sylvia Spury who many may know from her 18 years of service with the Mooresville South Iredell Chamber. She has 20 years of Chamber experience and we are so lucky to have her on our team.

The past month has been one of tremendous difficulty for me personally due to the loss of my father. The announcement that Sylvia had been selected as the new Executive Vice President caused some to wonder if I had left the chamber or was retiring to our family farm. But the reality is we hired Sylvia to complement our chamber leadership team and we are very excited to have her on our staff.  She brings new ideas, vision, and synergy to our organization.  We’ve also just unveiled a new chamber website which will allow us to unleash unbridled opportunities when it comes to marketing and promoting our chamber membership.

At the end of the graveside service, after most had driven the long road home, a close friend shared a conversation that she’d had with a previous chamber board chairman. When she thanked Bob McIntosh and his wife Ann for coming to support us that day, Bob simply said, “It’s all about family. We show up because it matters. It’s what we do.”

I am grateful that the Lord gave me a great father to learn from and love.  While his saddle may now be empty, his presence in my life still fills my heart and lifts my soul, as so many of you have also done this past month.

The words Bob McIntosh conveyed that afternoon embody why I have spent 23 years at this Chamber of Commerce. We’re family here at Lake Norman. That is and will always be the difference. We do the things we do because it matters. It’s what we do.

Bill Russell, Jr.

March 6, 2019 Posted by | Chamber of Commerce, Junior Chamber of Commerce (Jaycees), Personal, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Creating Magic

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W.E. “Bill” Russell President & CEO Lake Norman Chamber

Perhaps no American in my lifetime has stimulated our imagination more than Walt Disney. As a child I went to the local Cinema along with the other kids in the neighborhood to see the new Disney films: Mary Poppins, The Love Bug, and The Jungle Book. Fifty years later, the studio is still cranking out hits like Beauty and the Beast and A Wrinkle in Time.

I still marvel at my first trip to Disney World. As a small boy I looked on in wide eyed wonder at the world that Walt built. A world he reminded folks that began with a little mouse. Walt’s ultimate dream was to create an amusement park bigger than Disney Land. A park which we now know as “The Magic Kingdom”, opening a year after his death in 1967. It was indeed “Magic.”

Disney’s brother Roy once told a story about a much younger Walt. When Disney was in fifth grade, his teacher told the students their assignment that day was to draw and color a flower garden. The teacher walked down the aisles looking over the student’s shoulders as they busied themselves in their task.

She stopped dead in her tracks as she stared down at Disney’s desk.  Walt’s drawings were quite unusual. “Walt,” she began, “Flowers don’t have faces on them.”

He looked up and said confidently, “Mine do!” And they still do.  Any trip to Disney Land or Disney World you will encounter flowers and they all have faces.

Lee Cockerell, an Executive Vice President for Walt Disney World Resort led a team which carried out Disney’s charge of creating magic for the millions of children and adults who visit the parks and resorts each year.  Cockerell told his staff, “It’s not the magic that makes it work, but the way we work that makes it magic.”

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Joe Douglas, Founding Partner of Captiva Restaurant Group receives the McIntosh Law Firm Passion to Succeed Award as the 2018 Entrepreneur of the Year.

Last month, the Lake Norman Chamber recognized Joe Douglas, founding partner of Captiva Restaurant Group (CRG) as the 2018 Entrepreneur of the Year.  Captiva developed 131 Main in 2004 and Cowboy in 2017. Joe’s company now has five restaurants employing 400 people serving 60,000 diners a month.  In 2009, CRG developed the Tenders / PDQ concept which has grown into a national chain with 70 units nationwide.

It was inspiring as he stood in front of 200 Lake Norman business leaders singled out as The McIntosh Law Firm’s Passion to Succeed recipient.

Quite often an entrepreneur’s idea starts at the kitchen table with a checkbook or credit card. An entrepreneur reaches for the stars and even if they fall short, they clear the tree tops, leaving the ground far below.  Douglas, much like Disney himself, started with a vision of what could be if you used your imagination and perhaps added a little magic.

Sam Ewing, former Major League Baseball Player once said, “Nothing is so embarrassing as watching someone do something that you said could not be done.”

That is the spirit of entrepreneurship.  Being told you can’t do something and you go out and do it anyway.  Simply, not allowing others to place limitations on what you can accomplish.

Entrepreneurs know they cannot really rely on magic to make their ideas work. It takes vision, hard work, and perseverance. Sometimes like the Major Leaguer, you swing and you miss… but when they succeed, they create a little magic of their own.

Bill Russell

March 1, 2019 Posted by | Chamber of Commerce, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lessons from the Sea

I was recently lucky enough to be invited to visit a friend in “Sunny” Florida. It was a wonderful short break and a chance to relax a little before jumping head first into the Chamber’s planning which takes place as we prepare for a new year of events and programming for our busy business organization.

As I strolled past the million dollar yachts in Fort Lauderdale, tucked in between was a small boat and a weathered old sailor, straightening his rig on a vessel that had certainly seen its share of adventures. This aged wooden structure stood in stark contrast to the large, sleek ships and their capable young crews. I couldn’t help but think that the old ship, like the captain that manned her, was winding down her years of service.

The Old Man and the Sea Ernest HemingwayAs I ventured up the road by the canal, I stopped by a little tavern and I ordered a beverage taking in the sun which glistened bright orange on the water. I’m not sure why, but my mind kept wandering back to the aged sailor who reminded me so much of Santiago from Ernest Hemingway’s, The Old Man and the Sea.  For those who may not recall the Pulitzer Prize winning book, its release launched Hemingway’s career and also won the renowned Author a Nobel Prize for Literature.

The book tells the story of an aging sailor whose most productive fishing days may have passed him by. He takes his boat out every day but the big catch always seems to elude him. Many of the town’s fishermen fear he is simply bad luck. Santiago though is persistent and eventually lands the elusive Marlin that he straps to his small raft. Unfortunately, on the way back to the village shore, sharks eat at the carcass of the giant Marlin.  Santiago fends them off, preserving his life, but losing the coveted trophy he had worked so tirelessly to attain.

Santiago reminds me of many of the entrepreneurs here at the Lake region. They launch their boat in search of their own Moby Dick. Equipped with a sense of optimism, persistence, a fishing pole and their own jar of Tartar Sauce, convinced if they work hard enough, they’ll land that big fish one day.

Some of us head into this New Year on a high note. Perhaps in 2018, you finally turned the corner and enjoyed the success you had hoped to achieve. Maybe you came up a little short, but you know that Marlin is just off the shore and you can pull him in with a little bit of luck and persistence this coming year.

Successful entrepreneurs cannot begin to count their failures. They don’t reflect much on the ones that got away. Instead, they look at each challenge as a stepping stone to their eventual success.

As the afternoon was slipping away, I passed back by the dock where I saw the old sailor. I was just in time to see him under way one last time. The sun had almost set, burning bright orange on the water as his boat sliced quietly through the smooth sea. The old man turned his boat, making his way back into the waterway. One last venture before the day yielded to the twilight of the night. His gaze firmly fixed on the horizon and his elusive fish was perhaps just a catch away.

Bill Russell

February 12, 2019 Posted by | Chamber of Commerce, Personal, Uncategorized | , , , , | Leave a comment

Lessons from a lemonade stand

GardenPerhaps my favorite summer activity is gardening. I really enjoy going down to our farm in Rock Hill and working the ground that my dad, grandfather, and great-grandfathers toiled.  Perhaps the best thing about the garden is that the investment in labor always yields a bountiful harvest of fresh vegetables that keep my family and friends very happy.

A few summers ago, I drove through the back roads to the farm and passed by a little lemonade stand by the side of the road.  A little girl sat at a folding table and chair with a handwritten sign that said, “Fresh Lemonade.”  There was also what appeared to be a glass pitcher and a few Dixie cups stacked as she waited patiently for a thirsty customer who would certainly come along.

I did not have time to stop then, but made a mental note to drop by for a cool drink after working in the garden in the hot afternoon sun.  After spending a few hours tilling the soil and tying up the tomatoes, I packed up and headed home.  The little girl was still in her chair, head resting on her left hand, as she slumped down on the table.

I pulled my car over and walked over to her stand.  She jumped up and beamed a big smile as I asked her for a cup of her cold lemonade.  To be truthful, the lemonade was a little warm as the afternoon sun had taken a toll on the ice.  However, after a long day in the garden, the beverage was tasty and really hit the spot.  She charged me a whopping 25 cents.

After downing the delectable treat, I asked if I could have a refill.  She indicated that would require another quarter.  She carefully poured a second beverage, handed me my drink, and held out her hand for payment.  I pulled out a $5 bill and her eyes widened and mouth dropped in awe. The little girl timidly said, “Sir, I do not have enough change.”  I told her that was okay, she could keep the change as a tip.  As I drove away, I watched in the rear view mirror as she dashed back to her house waving the money.  Based on her excitement, I am guessing that she made more in one visit with me than she did all day.

The little girl’s location was not ideal – located on a lonely country back road where you’re more likely to see a stray dog wander by before the occasional car.  She clearly wasn’t prepared for any large transactions but I really admired the fact she stuck it out through the hot summer heat.lemonade-stand

That lemonade stand was similar to many businesses that are located in low traffic areas or operate without a solid business or marketing plan. The Lake Norman Chamber helps in those situations. We provide businesses with numerous opportunities to build new relationships through our many networking opportunities. Our chamber also gives business owners and managers’ new tools and knowledge needed for success, including presentations in financial planning, sales training, marketing, risk management, HR issues and other personal and business topics.

Unlike a lemonade stand, our lake businesses cannot afford to make critical errors in planning, financing, and marketing their business.  Our businesses are like a garden which requires constant attention. You do not just plant a seed – you have to constantly provide care.  Tilling, hoeing out the rows, fertilizing the ground, and supplying it with plenty of water.  However, if you put in the effort and investment in the business, the time spent building new relationships and cultivating existing ones, will yield a bountiful harvest and a successful business.

I’m not sure how much lemonade that little girl sold that afternoon but just thinking about her brings a big smile to my face. I hope she’s back there again this summer. A fresh pitcher of cool lemonade and perhaps this time a cookie or two.

Bill Russell

May 29, 2018 Posted by | Chamber of Commerce, Personal, Uncategorized | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Feminine Mystique

billThe 1960’s was perhaps the most turbulent and transformational time in the history of our nation.  I was only four years old in 1963 when President Kennedy was killed by an assassin’s bullet in the streets of Dallas. Before the end of the decade we saw the horrible killing of two more civil rights leaders – the Rev. Martin Luther King and Senator Bobby Kennedy, both shot down after addressing crowds about the dramatic change they envisioned for our young country.

The innocence of the 1950’s gave way to a remarkable decade of the antiwar protests and the Civil Rights struggle which played out in our streets and was shown on television sets in living rooms across America.

There was the Beatles, flower children, hippies, and Woodstock. The 1960’s saw the approval of birth control and by the end of the decade, more than 80% of women of child bearing age were using contraceptives.

In 1963, Betty Friedman published her book, The Feminine Mystique which challenged the traditional gender roles and with it a full on assault to give women equal rights under the law. The passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, specifically the section known as Title VII, banned sex discrimination by employers and offered legal protection for women who had been rejected for employment solely because of their sex.  The American workplace would be forever changed and it was “game on” for women who strived to be treated equally when it came to employment and wages.

Fifty four years after the Civil Rights Act, females are still facing discrimination and dealing with harassment in the workplace. This past year, the #MeToo movement took center stage as behavior, once accepted or at the very least tolerated, became unacceptable and the perpetrators of those actions harshly rebuked.Pic 2 Women's Con Thoughts

On Thursday, April 19th, The Lake Norman Chamber’s Diversity Council will conduct its Fifth Annual Women’s Conference at the Peninsula Club in Cornelius. Last year’s event drew more than 140 women CEO’s and business leaders to the 11 am until 5 pm program.

Entitled, “Truth, Courage, and Empowerment: Don’t Be Silent!” the conference will examine the trials and tribulations which have faced women business owners and how they have used their courage and persistence to overcome the critics, building successful business careers and serving as mentors for the next generation of female business and community leaders.

Keynoted by Dee Worley, the Co-Founder and COO of Worley Global Enterprises, the conference has several women who have overcome the obstacles placed in front of them and serve as inspirations to women and men alike.

Worley had a gymnastics career at the University of Alabama from 1989-93, and became a 17-time All-American, a four-time champion and a nine-time regional champion. As a senior in 1993, she set an NCAA record with perfect 10’s in five consecutive meets.

Ranked as the nation’s No. 1 all-around competitor, she was a runaway winner of Alabama’s Amateur Athlete of the Year Award. At the time of her graduation, she was the only NCAA gymnast to finish in the top three in All-Around for four straight years.

Dee’s story is one of several attendees will hear at the conference as speakers recount the challenges they have faced, but more importantly how they used their faith, strength, and determination to succeed in business and in life.

Ayn Rand, a Russian American Novelist once said, “The question isn’t who’s going to let me; it’s who’s going to stop me.”

The role women play in board rooms, government, civic clubs, and at home has changed dramatically in the last fifty years. Rand who passed away in 1982 would not be surprised at the tremendous strides that have been made by women in our workforce and culture. I imagine if Rand were alive today, she’d likely smile and say, “And who’s going to stop us now.”

Bill Russell, President

April 11, 2018 Posted by | Chamber of Commerce, Social Causes, Uncategorized | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Place Called Hope

billThis past week, I stopped by one of our local Chamber Members – Kilwin’s Chocolate, Fudge, Ice Cream in Birkdale Village. Bill Kenney, the owner, has always been a very engaged member of our business community, often lending a hand to local charities and non-profits. When I asked how the New Year was starting off for his business, he smiled broadly as he reminded me we’re approaching Valentine’s Day and “these are the biggest weeks of our year.”

Valentine’s Day is that time of the year when we tell that special someone in our life just how much we love them. As I reflected on that notion the other day, I could not help but think just how much I simply love Lake Norman, and for many of us, there is quite a bit to love!

Arriving at the lake some twenty years ago, I met a young man who was just starting a local newspaper. Scott Hinkle was the editor and publisher of The Lake Norman Times which predated today’s Lake Norman Herald Citizen.

Scott’s paper focused on our lake communities and the great things happening in the region. He later became the 1999 Board Chair of the Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce and later Chair of Visit Lake Norman. Scott used to crack me up doing a spot on impression of former President Bill Clinton. He’d poke out his lip, cock his head, and with his thumb squarely pointed to the sky, he’d utter the line in a croaky Bubba accent, “I still believe in a place called Hope.”

Scott Hinkle personified leadership and he would be excited to know that next month, the Lake Norman region will have its very first leadership conference. Business Coach and John Maxwell Trainers Dave Ferguson and Titus Bartolotta will join communications consultant Heidi Hansen and myself as we headline what we hope is the first of many Living to Lead Leadership Conferences.

It will be held Wednesday, March 7th at Grace Covenant Church in Cornelius. The net proceeds of this conference will go to The Hope House Foundation. For those unfamiliar with The Hope House, this outstanding organization provides a safe home to females, whose lives have been turned upside down when she becomes displaced from a home due to job loss, illness, or a major life change. Her safety net may be broken and she needs her community’s support to help her work toward self-sustaining goals.

The Hope House is dedicated to helping women who are experiencing “situational” homelessness.  With 12 beds in a pleasant, congregate living environment, The Hope House encourages transformative life choices and helps women from various backgrounds, age groups, and all walks of life.

Neither a battered women’s shelter nor a substance abuse recovery center, The Hope House is simply a place for residents to call “home” for up to six months as they get back on their feet.Living to Lead Leadership Conference

Sadly, we suddenly lost Scott Hinkle a few years ago but his dream of a place called “Hope” still lives in the hearts of many people who call the Lake Norman region home.

The 2018 Living to Lead Leadership Conference will be a great opportunity to prepare your mind for leadership and your heart for service. In the process, your participation and support provides hope for those who need a helping hand.

Philosopher Thomas Paine once said, “We have it in our power to change the world.”  It starts, one person, one community at a time.  For women and children who are looking for that outstretched hand and a second chance – it often starts at Lake Norman. It starts – at a place called Hope.

Bill Russell, President

Information about the 2018 Living to Lead Leadership Conference is available by visiting LakeNormanChamber.org  or by calling the Chamber at 704-892-1922.

February 12, 2018 Posted by | Chamber of Commerce, Personal, Social Causes, Uncategorized | , , , , , , | Leave a comment