Russell’s Ramblings

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

A Portrait of a Life well Lived

Ask anyone who knows me well and they will likely tell you I am a creature of habit. A typical work day begins with cups of coffee, looking through email, scanning the headlines of various news sites before I turn to social media and catch up with the unfiltered discussions of the day.

Last Friday was a day like many others as I perused Face Book, looking over the rants on I77, comments on the new Beach at Ramsey, and upcoming events over the weekend. I also took note of the birthdays and sent notices to those who were celebrating their special day.

That night was the annual Symphony at McGuire and for those of you who went, you may recall the brief intermission taken to allow for the bad weather to pass.  I took that opportunity to check out Face Book on my phone and there, among the many posts, was one which said that Donna Mitchell was losing her fight with cancer. She was one of those who I had written happy birthday earlier that morning.

It was perhaps fortunate that the darkness had fallen on McGuire as the symphony began to play again. It hid the anguish on my face and the tears which filled my eyes.

I wasn’t particularly close to Donna or her sister Tabetha, though both are chamber members. They joined a couple of years ago with their business Cork & Canvas and celebrated their ribbon cutting at the Chamber.

Donna Pic for Cluttered DeskIt was on a January night last year that the two ladies sauntered up to my table at a Lake Norman restaurant and presented me with a cup of mint chocolate chip ice cream. Donna explained they were celebrating Donna’s daughter’s birthday. It was something they did each year to remember Destin who passed away in a tragic car accident a few years ago.

Last fall, I read a post on Face Book from Donna as she shared they had found cancer and she was being treated at Novant here in Huntersville.  I asked Tabetha would it be okay to drop by and she indicated Donna would love it.

When I poked my head into the room, Donna was hooked up to an IV Machine. She apologized for how she looked as the chemo had taken a toll on her long locks of golden hair. But what I saw was the radiant smile that I remembered each time that we had met.

We spent the next hour talking about the highs and lows of life. Her low – the tragic death of her daughter. The pain of losing a child and the grief she carried. She had stopped painting, a gift she inherited from her father. But it was the love of her sister Tabetha who encouraged her to move to the lake and start a business with her that filled her life again.

Donna’s love of painting and Tabetha’s entrepreneurial spirit launched the Cork and Canvas painting parties as the two sisters helped people around the lake find their hidden talents.

Then the unexpected – the unwelcomed thief who steals moments and brings pain – cancer.

I followed Donna’s ordeal mostly through her posts on Face Book. When I recently read she was at Wake Forest and undergoing treatment, I thought about stopping by on my visits to Raleigh. But like so many of us, time also seemed to get in the way.  Maybe next time!

On June 1st, I read a post where she spoke of her challenge and how much she appreciated the support of so many. I sent her a personal email encouraging her and reminding her she was in our prayers. She thanked me and then sent the little Smiley Face emoticon. That was our last chat and looking back, I cannot help but think how appropriate.  It’s the smile I do remember the most.

The painter’s hands are resting now. Her canvass is complete. A life filled with the bright bold colors of love in the lives she touched and the light pastels that spoke to her lows. Donna was a wife, a mom, a sister, a daughter… and yes a painter. Her illness cut short our time together but it left a portrait not of an unfinished life, but a bright splendid painting of triumph over adversity and the realization to seize every moment with broad bold strokes.

Our last words at Novant was for her to get better so she could teach me to paint. Looking back on that moment, I realize she taught me much more than that. It was really a lesson in how to live.


July 5, 2016 Posted by | Chamber of Commerce, Personal, 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

Special Message to the Membership from 2016 Chamber Chair Callan Bryan


Callan BryanLake Norman Chamber Members:

2016 is off to a great start for business in our region and I am excited about what lies ahead for our Chamber during my tenure as your 2016 Chamber Chairman of the Board of Directors. As we are charting the course for the future of our Chamber, I believe it is important to understand the foundation of our strong organization.

The Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce was chartered by the State of North Carolina in June 1989 as the North Mecklenburg Chamber of Commerce and whose stated purpose is “The advancement of the civic, commercial, industrial, and agricultural interests of the North Mecklenburg area, and the surrounding territory; the promotion of the general welfare and prosperity of the North Mecklenburg area and its surrounding territory, and the stimulation of public sentiment to these ends…”

In addition, our Charter Bylaws under which the Chamber was incorporated, defined our area: (Article I section 3) “The Lake Norman area shall include the Towns of Cornelius, Davidson, Huntersville and the greater Lake Norman area.” To this end, our Chamber has, since its inception, included a Town Board Representative from each of the three North Mecklenburg Towns.

Could Founding Chairman John Cherry have created chambers of commerce in each town rather than a more united regional chamber? Yes, he could have. However, Mr. Cherry and the founding members realized our business members could achieve a great deal more working together than individually. This regional model and approach has significantly benefited our businesses and served our communities in a unified way during a period of extraordinary growth.

As you may know, The Lake Norman Chamber was recently recognized for its impressive community service and business related programs and events by being named Chamber of The Year for North and South Carolina.  Our award winning level of regional service will continue as we fulfill our mission of unparalleled representation of the businesses of Huntersville, Cornelius, Davidson and the greater Lake Norman region.

Our Chamber is committed to maintaining its role in the fabric and growth of the Huntersville community and the Lake Norman area.  We are the Huntersville Chamber, we are the Cornelius Chamber, we are the Davidson Chamber, we are the Chamber for our neighboring lake communities, and we have been for almost 30 years. We are your Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce.

Callan H. Bryan

2016 Chairman of the Board of Directors

Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce

February 19, 2016 Posted by | Chamber of Commerce, Uncategorized | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The regrets of a southern strategist

Russell thoughts 1Last year, many of us watched the Senate campaign between Thom Tillis and Kay Hagan play out on our televisions and splashed across the papers in the most expensive race in U.S. history. More than $103 million was spent as the candidates engaged in a spirited campaign.

Thom is not just a huge supporter of business at the lake or simply one of our own.  I have known the Senator and his wife Susan for more than a decade and they are both personal friends. I cringed watching the attack ads on TV and seeing the messaging in newspapers.  Much of it was baseless and untrue.  I’m also quite certain the same could be said in regards to the attacks on then Senator Hagan.

A product of South Carolina, one of our native sons was a master of negative advertising.  The late Lee Atwater had few rivals in his ability to spin, boxing candidates into corners, and helping his party and their candidates onto victory.

In the last few weeks I have read things on social media about local candidates for office that I think would make even Lee Atwater blush.  Social media such as Face Book and Twitter allow anonymous critics to hurl filth with the only true goal – to maliciously hurt another individual.  Some keyboard cowboys and cowgirls launch personal attacks that they would never do face to face.  What some claim as fact is nothing more than pure fiction designed to prop themselves up by pulling others down.

In the end, it is our community which is hurt most by the baseless accusations and negative attacks. Negative campaigning is nothing new.  The founding fathers of our country did not get along either. Even George Washington was falsely accused of being senile by those who sought to take his office.lee-atwater-1138-20070813-4

Perhaps no one said it better than Lee Atwater himself.  Facing the illness which eventually took his life at age 40, he said, My illness helped me to see that what was missing in society is what was missing in me: a little heart, a lot of brotherhood. The ’80s were about acquiring—acquiring wealth, power, prestige. I know. I acquired more wealth, power, and prestige than most.”

“But you can acquire all you want and still feel empty. What power wouldn’t I trade for a little more time with my family? What price wouldn’t I pay for an evening with friends? It took a deadly illness to put me eye to eye with that truth, but it is a truth that the country, caught up in its ruthless ambitions and moral decay, can learn on my dime. I don’t know who will lead us through the ’90s, but they must be made to speak to this spiritual vacuum at the heart of American society, this tumor of the soul.”

The words we choose can be daggers to the soul or inspire others to reach new heights. In the end – the choice is ours.

October 27, 2015 Posted by | Personal, Politics | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Finding the opportunity in our differences

diversityPick up a paper and the headlines are likely filled with trouble and unrest. Last year, the nation watched in anguish as cable news displayed the riots resulting from anger in Ferguson, Missouri. The racial tension was not confined to that region as protests and violence erupted across the country from Seattle to Downtown Davidson as students and teachers alike participated in a “Die-in.”

Spectators attending the annual Christmas in Davidson event looked on as protesters lay in the streets, their hands behind their backs, in a silent protest to a not guilty verdict. Christmas carols fell silent as the discontent seeped into the evening Yule Tide event

The last few weeks has seen our community gripped in a much less violent demonstration at the recent Kerrick trial of a white police officer accused of using unnecessary force in the attempted arrest and subsequent death of a black man. The mistrial again provoked demonstrations in the minds of some that somehow justice did not prevail.

Frustration, anger, and tension are not just confined to race as our state legislature in Raleigh finds rural lawmakers pitted against their urban counterparts. Perhaps at no other time in history has our state been so starkly divided between communities that are growing and those who are not.

Look no further than here at Lake Norman as we wrestle with the notion of tolling what many consider our main street – I77. This year marks my 20th year at the Lake Norman Chamber and at no time have I witnessed an issue which has so bitterly divided our community and region with the “haves” vs the “have nots.”

While transportation and some elected officials would point out that Express Lanes provide “choice” and guaranteed mobility to drivers, opponents which refer to them as “Lexus Lanes” see them as a tax on a “local road” that many simply cannot afford, and in the case of truckers, are prohibited from using.

Against the backdrop of these trying times, I am reminded of the words of the Reverend Martin Luther King.  In the midst of the Civil Rights struggle, Dr. King said, “The measure of a man is not where he stands in times of comfort and Kingconvenience, but where he stands in times of challenge and controversy.”

The one thing we can be assured is there will be change.  Challenges are brought about by change. Today is different than yesterday and tomorrow will be different than today.

Perhaps there is no more stark contrast politically to Rev. King than former President Ronald Regan. Regan too understood diversity when he reminded us, “It’s not enough to be equal in the eyes of God.  We must be equal in the eyes of each other.”

In September, the Chamber embraces “Diversity” and recognizes those companies, businesses and individuals who promote and encourage inclusion in their business practices at our annual Diversity Luncheon on September 17th.

As we face each new sunrise, let us move closer to the day, when we as a community, nation, and people find the opportunities in our differences and the strength in our common ground.

Bill Russell

August 31, 2015 Posted by | Chamber of Commerce | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Millennial Generation – Shaping the Marketplace and Workforce

millenials_splashQuickly taking their place in the workplace is a new generation of workers – The Millennials.  Born between 1977 and 1998, approximately 75 million Americans can be identified as a Millennial. This demographic, representing, one-third the total U.S. population in 2013, is changing the way companies brand products and having major impacts on management and marketing.

Recently I was listening to a program on one of the Charlotte radio stations as they interviewed an authority on the Millennial Generation.  Large food retailers such as McDonalds are already taking note of the buying power this generation represents. It was pointed out this group was much less likely to be swayed by traditional brands, instead relying on recommendations from close friends.

This generation is the first to have access to the Internet during their formative years.  They have grown up with the world at their fingertips in an age of instantaneous information.  They are also the generation that will shape our economy for the next few decades.

Millennials are not just connected via social networks, they value the role they play in the community.  A 2013 poll found that this group, also known as “Generation Y”, was more open minded than their parents on controversial topics and are very civic minded.

Last fall, the Chamber created the Lake Norman Young Professionals, a program specifically for young people ages 18 to 39 inclusively. The group is composed of chamber members or employees of chamber members who meet monthly to network, enrich their personal and leadership skills through informative programs, and work together on community projects.

They utilize Face Book and a website to organize meetings and provide an important resource as we engage this new generation into our local communities and the region.

2015 Chamber Chair Mike Russell, Terrii Manning - CPCC, Bill Russell - LKN Chamber, with Lauren Crawley, Katie Jones, and Marley Caddell from Belk dept Stores. —

2015 Chamber Chair Mike Russell, Terrii Manning – CPCC, Bill Russell – Lake Norman Chamber, with Lauren Crawley, Katie Jones, and Marley Caddell from Belk dept Stores. —

Last week, the Chamber examined the millennial generation more closely at a PowerLuncheon at River Run Country Club. Terri Manning, the Associate Vice President for Information Technology and Research Services at Central Piedmont Community College, led the discussion. The program was Presented by Belk Department Stores.

Manning spoke about the societal influences on generations as well as the strengths and talents of generations working today.  She pointed out that this is not your parent’s workforce as expectations have changed.  Perhaps the most important questions is how do we, as business owners, managers, and supervisors motivate and reward today’s new workforce?

Dr. Manning’s presentation is available by visiting the Chamber’s website.  You can find her PowerPoint here – Examining the Impact of the Millennial Generation.  You can also view this document from Dr. Manning – 14 Rules of the New Workplace That Millennials Need to Master.

No generation has been more influenced by technology and the computer than the millennials.  These new entrepreneurs are wired for success and very soon, if not already, America will feel the power of her young people.

Bill Russell

August 28, 2015 Posted by | Chamber of Commerce | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

SPECIAL BUSINESS BRIEFING: The Business of Tolls – Myths, Misinformation and Mayhem

tollsThe Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce will hold two separate special business briefings on Tuesday August 11th and Tuesday August 18th from 6:30 to 8 pm at The Galway Hooker Irish Pub located at 17044 Kenton Dr. in Cornelius. While the chamber of commerce would like to encourage local business owners and managers to attend, the special business briefings are open to the public. Chamber leaders will be joined by Mecklenburg County Board Commissioner Jim Puckett as they cite the business and economic implications of the proposed Toll Lane plan on the Lake Norman economy.

The Chamber initially took a firm stance that the widening of I-77 from exit 36 to just below exit 23 was critical to the overall economic health of the region. Bill Russell, president of the chamber and an ex-officio board member of the Lake Norman Regional Transportation Commission, points out that local elected and business leaders were presented with the option of widening I-77 through tolling or waiting 20 years or more for the project to be funded with general purpose lanes.  “We did not think putting off relief for 20 years was an option,” he said.  “However, it would now seem the proposed HOT Lanes will not relieve congestion – it actually guarantees it!”

Past Chamber Chair John Hettwer agrees, “Like many business owners in the last few years, I was battling through the recession, building my business, and confident our elected leadership was looking out for all of us.  Unfortunately, they were being given misleading information by the NCDOT, and we now find ourselves in a fight for the economic and business vitality of our region.”

Jim Puckett, Mecklenburg County Commissioner for District #1 has been a longtime opponent of the toll project.  “I- 77 is the lifeline of North Mecklenburg and South Iredell counties and the current design and tolling plans will have a devastating impact on the future of our region and economic development going forward.  With the current ill-conceived plan contracted to last 50 years NOW is the time for the business community to push for a better solution. “

Chamber leaders hope to use the meetings to further educate businesses and citizens on the impact of tolling at the lake and plans to move forward.  Russell said he hopes citizens and business owners will attend one of the two meetings and encourage their friends and neighbors to attend. “I know a great many elected leaders, including our governor, say it’s far too late to stop this project now.  Perhaps so, but on the other hand it’s simply never too late to do the right thing.”

August 11, 2015 Posted by | Chamber of Commerce | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Life’s Great Lessons – #1 It’s the little things

Yesterday when I arrived at the Chamber, I found my chairs moved out of the way in the office, indicating that our cleaners had been in vacuuming the floors and tidying up the office over the weekend. I spent a little bit of time deleting emails and transferring files before making a mad dash home to watch the afternoon college bowl games.  I hoped for a West Virginia win as I have a great many close friends with a strong WVU allegiance.

I’m not going to comment on the Clemson game other than to say, if there is a hell where mankind spends eternity languishing for their transgressions – for me it would be in Death Valley (SC) watching Clemson have their way on a football field, listening to the Tiger Rag droning on and on to the screaming delight, and might I add, downright annoying orange clad fans. Perhaps if I have done something particularly heinous in my lifetime, I might have to succumb to being dressed in orange pants and a purple shirt with a giant tiger paw – oh my!

As I sat here in the office, I peered over at the empty waste basket and recalled a story I heard many years ago. As the story goes, some young student is breezing through a pop quiz his high school teacher has presented. The student is flying through the quiz until he gets to the last question, “What is the first name of the woman who cleans the school?”  The student recalled he had seen the cleaning woman several times.  She was tall, dark-haired and in her fifties, but how could he possibly know her name?

The student handed in the paper, leaving the last question unanswered. However, before class recessed, another student inquired if the last question would actually count toward the test grade. “Absolutely,” said the teacher, adding, “In your careers you will meet many people. Everyone is unique and significant. They deserve your attention even if all you do is smile and ask how they are.Cleaner

It doesn’t take much time out of the day to thank those who help you along the way. Quite a few serve in thankless jobs but make our task easier. Remembering the story, I smiled thinking I needed to remember in 2015 to slow down and keep in mind – it’s the little things.

By the way, thank you Angelo and Anne with Sir Cleans a Lot. You may be rarely thanked but your service never goes unnoticed – or appreciated!

Happy New Year!

December 30, 2014 Posted by | Leadership Lessons | , , | Leave a comment

New Hospital in Davidson Represents a Second Chance

The following article appeared as a “Letter to the Editor” in many Lake Norman regional publications the week of April 7, 2014.

Michael C. Tarwater, MHA Chief Executive Officer of Carolinas Healthcare System speaks at the Grand Opening of the new Davidson Hospital

Michael C. Tarwater, MHA Chief Executive Officer of Carolinas Healthcare System speaks at the Grand Opening of the new Davidson Hospital

This past week, community and business leaders received a firsthand look into the new Carolinas HealthCare System Behavioral Health Hospital in Davidson. Standing in the courtyard, I was struck by how much the new facility resembled a hotel, rather than a healthcare facility.

Our new behavioral health hospital was not without controversy as elected leaders and neighborhood opponents in Huntersville rejected the earlier concept. While the denial for a rezoning of the parcel was in essence based on “it just didn’t fit in”, I suspect the truth is many of those who opposed the idea of a behavioral health hospital gave into their fear of the unknown.

A large segment of our population simply do not know how to react to people with disabilities. Few of us understand the daily challenges facing those with disabilities and their family and caregivers.  Even more taboo in our society are those with “mental issues.”

Yet one in four, will at some point in their life, have a behavioral health issue.  It is a statistic that is both startling and undeniable. Still, we whisper at the dinner table about the neighbor down the street or the colleague at work, and assume it will never be someone in our family – unfortunately, one day, it may be.

The tragedy of last week’s shooting at Fort Hood brings the issue of mental illness to the forefront. The bigger question is – could it have been prevented?  Our local communities know all too well the heartache of teenage depression and suicide.

Not long ago, I ran across an article that the Rev. Billy Graham wrote.  In it, Rev. Graham says, “If God is in control of everything, why do bad things happen to us?  I’d like to believe in God but I just can’t understand this.”

Graham answers that he’s been asked a hundred times why evil is allowed to take place. He responds, “I have to tell you honestly that I do not know the answer – not fully.” He goes on to point out that in all our challenges, God is with us and in the end, we’ll get through it – together.

Carol Lovin, Executive Vice President, Planning & Communications and President, CHS Management Company. I have known Carol since her strong support of the Chamber and community with Northeast Medical Center.

Carol Lovin, Executive Vice President, Planning & Communications and President, CHS Management Company. I have known Carol since her strong support of the Chamber and community with Northeast Medical Center.

At the opening of the hospital, we heard administrators and healthcare officials share their plans for the new facility and the strides we were making in mental health.  The most poignant comments though came from the mother of a child who battled healthcare issues and a young lady who discussed her own challenges.

She said this hospital represented a second chance. Receiving quality care, she overcame depression and anxiety and today is making a significant contribution to our community both as a parent and a citizen.

We still have a ways to go as a community to fully understand the challenges facing those with disabilities.  As business and community leaders, we need to ensure Building Codes are written which make it easier for those with disabilities to have access to the same resources we often take for granted.

In an age where we are striving to embrace diversity, we must overcome our fear of those with behavioral health issues.  As Reverend Graham pointed out, we may not always understand why bad things happen to good people, but how we react to those bad things reveals our very character as a people.

The new hospital in Davidson represents second chances and new beginnings for many in our region. It is also a second chance for our community.  After giving into our fear of the unknown and rejecting the facility the first time out, this time – we got it right.

Bill Russell
Huntersville, NC

Bill Russell is the president and CEO of the Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce with approximately 1,000 business members in the Cornelius, Davidson, Huntersville and grater Lake Norman region.

April 10, 2014 Posted by | Chamber of Commerce, Social Causes | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Angels in our midst

The following article was written exclusively for The Lake Norman Citizen Newspaper and printed in the  January 22, 2014 edition.

As president of the Lake Norman Chamber, I cannot adequately express how proud I am of the people from our community who step up to the plate and make this region a great place to live, work, and visit. Like the lake itself, these selfless acts send ripples across the face of our community and change lives in its wake.  Last weekend, nearly 200 business and elected leaders packed The Peninsula Club to attend the Chamber’s Annual Meeting.  It was a reflection of the past year as outgoing Board Chair Wendy Moran shared the accomplishments of our chamber and recognized key community leaders and volunteers.

Randy Marion of Randy Marion Automotive receives the Lake Norman Chamber Cashion Business Person of the Year.  Pictured are: Chamber President Bill Russell, Chamber Board Chair Wendy Moran, Randy Marion, and Bobby Cashion.  Photo courtesy of Deborah Young Studio.

Randy Marion of Randy Marion Automotive receives the Lake Norman Chamber Cashion Business Person of the Year. Pictured are: Chamber President Bill Russell, Chamber Board Chair Wendy Moran, Randy Marion, and Bobby Cashion. Photo courtesy of Deborah Young Studio.

Randy Marion was selected the Business Person of the Year. His dealership excelled in 2013 and Marion was recognized nationally as the #1 Business Elite Dealer in the nation.  Jim Engel, president and CEO of Aquesta Bank, was acknowledged with the Spirit of Entrepreneurship Award.  In addition to their business success, Marion and Engel have contributed greatly to their communities.  Each has been recognized by the March of Dimes for outstanding leadership. Marion is also involved with the Mooresville Soup Kitchen, the Piedmont Council of Boy Scouts, and currently serves as Chairman of the Board of Lake Norman Regional Medical Center. Engel is a strong supporter of Big Day at the Lake, the Ada Jenkins Center, the Dove House and the American Red Cross.

While the Chamber’s gala was a time to reflect and celebrate, there were few dry eyes in the crowd when the staff of Business Today was awarded the Distinguished Service Award.  Literally fighting for his life, Business Today founder Dave Yochum spent half of 2013 facing a series of health challenges.  Dave is not only the hands-on leader of two newspapers, he is the founder of Big Day at the Lake and the Top Women in Business program.  During the past year, when Dave was unable to lead the projects himself, the staff of Business Today, as well as a number of community volunteers, made sure those programs met and exceeded the bar of success that Dave set in prior years.

One of our chamber members approached me with tears in her eyes. She hugged me and thanked the chamber for reminding her why she and her husband chose the Lake Norman region to live. Her comments and those just like hers that I get to hear on a weekly basis serve as a constant reminder of the impact we all make working together in a common cause. As the presentation of awards concluded, the Duke Citizenship and Service Award, was presented to Angels of ’97, a completely volunteer non-profit serving the entire north Mecklenburg area.

It was created by former Huntersville Town Commissioner Charles Guignard, shortly after the death of two high school students, who perished in a tragic auto accident in 1995.  To date, the organization has provided 152 scholarships to local high school students raising a little over $500,000. Angels of ’97 now offers a ministry group to console families who have lost children.  They hold monthly meetings for family members to share, reflect, and support one another.

Charles Guignard, founder of Angels of ’97, receives the Duke Energy Citizenship and Service Award. Pictured are Chamber President Bill Russell, Chamber Board Chair Wendy Moran, Charles Guignard, NC House Speaker Thom Tillis, and Tim Gause.  Photo courtesy of Deborah Young Studio.

Charles Guignard, founder of Angels of ’97, receives the Duke Energy Citizenship and Service Award. Pictured are Chamber President Bill Russell, Chamber Board Chair Wendy Moran, Charles Guignard, NC House Speaker Thom Tillis, and Tim Gause. Photo courtesy of Deborah Young Studio.

Like the angels they honor, these volunteers serve up spaghetti dinners for scholarships. They care for those who need comfort and consolation, lending a helping hand when times are tough. However, you will not recognize them by the wings on their back but by the smiles on their face and the love in their hearts. They are all God’s gift and a reminder, as a community – our Lake Norman community, we are never truly alone.

Bill Russell

Bill Russell is the president and CEO of the Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce with approximately 1,000 business members serving the Cornelius, Davidson, Huntersville, and greater Lake Norman region

January 28, 2014 Posted by | Chamber of Commerce | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment