Russell’s Ramblings

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

Viewing life through a different lens

diversity-4

2016 Diversity Chair Chris Hailey and Lake Norman Chamber President Bill Russell

Anyone who knows me well, knows that I am an avid football fan. On any given Saturday or Sunday, I’m usually sitting back watching games when I see a real bone-headed play that leaves me thinking, “What was that all about?”

Granted the play has been stopped, we know the result and, in many instances, we watch replays over and over from every angle. Knowing the outcome, many of us become sports geniuses — hence the term “armchair quarterbacks.”

Several years ago, I had the opportunity, through our Leadership Lake Norman program, to tour the Criminal Justice Center at the Central Piedmont Community College Merancas Campus in Huntersville. There I was allowed to participate in a firearms simulation on which our law enforcement officers are required to train. Participants are provided a firearm equipped with a laser that registers actual hits and misses in a simulated environment.

In some situations, subjects in the video are innocent bystanders. In others, in the blink of an eye, the bystander became an armed assailant. The actual time you as a law enforcement officer have to ascertain the threat and act are mere seconds. My simulation involved terrorists who had taken hostages on a passenger jet in flight. I laughed it off and went home after I hit an assailant, a bystander and the fuselage of the plane perhaps dooming all of the passengers. For me, in that room with that make-believe gun in a simulated environment, it was little more than a video game.

Out on the streets, it’s anything but.

The last few days in Charlotte, and last few months nationwide, have seen tensions between law enforcement and the public reach a precipice. As I personally struggle to understand why we have reached this point, my good friend and the Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce Diversity Chairman Chris Hailey asked me to “step back away from my ‘whiteness’ and see the world through a different lens — that of an African-American man.”

What some of us may see as a single incident is for many a tipping point of years of frustration, anxiety and fear. While there can be no excuse for looting, violence and lawlessness, there must be a way to confront the feelings many minorities are experiencing.

On Wednesday, Oct. 5, the Lake Norman Chamber Diversity Council will host a Lunch & Learn session at the CPCC Merancas Campus with Brandi Riggins from Charter Communications. She will discuss race relations and how we can continue to come together as a community. The Diversity Council will also host another community forum later in the month.

In the meantime, the Lake Norman Chamber will salute our public safety officers who put their lives on the line for us each and every day — our police, fire and EMS officers along with the Crime Stopper of the Year. That event takes place Thursday, Oct. 20, at NorthStone Country Club.

Unlike football, our police officers have no instant replay and no way to truly know what’s in the mind of the person they stop or try to apprehend. They have no ability to look back on what they could or should have done. They have only the moment. It’s real time.

One thing I do know for certain: none of our officers are out there looking for confrontation. They simply want to serve and go home safe at the end of the day to their families.

My friend Chris asked me to see life though a different lens. The reality is I’m not sure I ever really can. But I do know, I need to try. I pray to God that we all try.

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October 11, 2016 Posted by | Chamber of Commerce, Politics, Social Causes, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Zeiss Leaves Legacy on Local workforce

The below column was written exclusively for The Lake Norman Citizen Newspaper and appeared in the April 6, 2016 issue (page 39 – For the Record)
zeissNearly a quarter of a century ago, a man of boundless energy, laser focus, and a commitment to higher education took the helm of Central Piedmont Community College.  In 1992, Dr. Tony Zeiss became just the third president of a community college that today serves 70,000 students a year.

Under Tony’s leadership, the college has grown from one campus to six, including the Merancas Campus in Huntersville. Dr. Zeiss has created a “learning college” whose mission is not simply to transfer knowledge from teacher to student but to create an atmosphere that allows students to discover knowledge, to apply it, and in essence become a problem solver.

Early in my career with the Lake Norman Chamber, I had the privilege to sit down with Beverly Dickson, the Dean of the Merancas Campus at the time. Beverly, who served on my board for six years, pointed out that the traditional four year college, while providing a “college experience,” was becoming unaffordable and less accessible for many students.

Enter Zeiss who understood that employers in the Charlotte region and beyond are challenged to find knowledgeable and skilled workers. Tony and his team set out to create a culture that prepared students for the workforce and deliver area businesses and industry high caliber employees committed to their task.

In 2005, the Lake Norman Chamber partnered with CPCC in a Workforce Development Summit held at the Merancas Campus. Highlighting several of our Lake Norman companies such as Lowe’s and Daetwyler, the theme of the summit was “Get ‘em While They’re Hot.” It was the title of Dr. Zeiss’s book on how to attract, develop, and retain peak performers in the labor shortage we faced at the time.

Tony gave me a copy of the book and made a little notation within its cover. Looking at it the other day, I also noted several turned down pages and highlighted text that I’m often guilty of doing to my favorite books.Zeiss Book

Zeiss writes, “Today’s leaders must learn to think globally, appreciate cultural diversity, develop high technical skills, build partnerships, and share in decision making.” Zeiss goes on to point out the critical skills needed to succeed are – the ability to communicate and create employee support for a shared vision, unwavering integrity, a focus on results, and a commitment to customer satisfaction. More than a decade later, his words are still the foundation for success today.

The campus here in Huntersville trains firefighters and police through their Public Safety program and Criminal Justice Academy as well as collision repair, emergency medical training and general public education.

On April 14, Dr. Tony Zeiss will speak to business and community leaders at the Lake Norman Chamber PowerLuncheon for the last time as President of CPCC. Although I suspect he will still be impacting the next generation of employees and business leaders in other ways.

Joseph Addison once said, “I consider the human soul without education like marble in a quarry, which shows none of its inherent beauties until the skill of the polisher fetches out the colors and makes the surface shine.”

The next time you call that electrician to your house, have an EMT respond to a family emergency, have your car repaired at a nearby body shop, or have an accountant work on your taxes, remember that skilled worker may just be a product of our community college system.

Dr. Zeiss has taken a block of marble, shaped our workforce and revealed the community we could be. It’s a legacy of promise and opportunity and the best work of any life.

Bill Russell, Huntersville, NC

Bill Russell is the President & CEO of the Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce which serves 1,000+ business members in the Huntersville, Davidson, Cornelius, and greater Lake Norman region.

April 12, 2016 Posted by | Chamber of Commerce, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Rep. Sue Myrick: A Legacy of Leadership

Jack Salzman, Rep. Sue Myrick, and Bill Russell

American humorist Will Rogers once said, “This country has come to feel the same when Congress is in session as when the baby gets hold of a hammer.”  My mother loves to tell the story that as I child I simply destroyed my toys.  In 1964, at the age of five, mom purchased one of the new Tonka toys from West Main Hardware in Rock Hill.  The salesman stated this new line of construction toys made of metal were the perfect toy for kids who were hard on their toys.

Mom said she put me in the backyard, locked the gate, assuming I was good for the afternoon.  She claims within the hour she saw me sitting on the ground beating the dump truck with a hammer.  Perhaps more priceless was the shocked look on the salesman’s face when mom walked back in with the remnants of a bashed in yellow dump truck.

One of the first elected officials I met when I arrived at the Lake Norman Chamber was Representative Sue Myrick.   Rep. Myrick has represented North Carolina’s ninth district for 18 years.  There is no question she has been an outspoken spokeswoman for conservative principles,America’s security, and business.

Sue, as she prefers to be called, served two terms as Mayor of Charlotte, a term on the Charlotte City Council, and ran a successful advertising firm.  She’s also a breast cancer survivor and has been a staunch supporter of American healthcare – sponsoring a law to provide Medicare coverage for mammograms and pap smears for low-income women.

The Chamber has made annual trips to Washington DC for more than a decade and Sue always made time to listen to our delegation about issues of importance to the Lake Norman region. She was just as accessible back home in the district hosting town hall meetings, business briefings, and legislative forums.

Rep. Myrick has railed against the corporate income tax, which hovers at slightly under 40% and higher than business taxes in France,China, and many other industrialized countries.  Rep. Myrick has pointed out that adding new bureaucratic jobs in Washington is not the answer.  Lowering taxes and rolling out the welcome mat to primary job creators and small business and entrepreneurs is the solution.  “Government jobs don’t grow the economy,” said Sue.  “The only thing that grows the economy is private sector jobs.”

This month as we celebrate Small Business Week – May 21-25, it is fitting that we have Rep Sue Myrick on May 11th to get us focused.  The Chamber will honor Rep. Myrick for her unwavering support of business at the luncheon as she caps off a wonderful career of public service.      

I’m not sure Will Rogers was flattering Congress with his remarks but I am certain that Sue Myrick knew when to use her velvet glove and when it was appropriate to bring out the hammer.

Unfortunately, I didn’t leave many hand-me-down toys to my brother Todd.  But I am certain Rep. Sue Myrick leaves the citizens of District Nine and our nation much stronger because of her sound judgment and commitment to conservative values and principles. 

Sue once told our Chamber delegation, “We have to make those tough choices so our America will be there for our kids and our grandkids.”    Representative Myrick went to Washington to make a difference – to make her district and her nation better than she found it – and she did.  It is her legacy of leadership.

May 24, 2012 Posted by | Chamber of Commerce, Politics | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment