Russell’s Ramblings

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

Barium Springs – A promise of hope

The article below appears in the August issue of Cornelius Life Magazine.

Isn’t it amazing in this fast paced world of smart phones, laptops, Facebook, and texting, it’s the simplest of things that teach us what’s really important in life. I was reminded of that by a teenager whose words made my heart tremble and brought tears to my eyes.

As the president of the chamber, I am keenly aware that while we are blessed to live in the Lake Norman region, there are still many in our community that need a helping hand. The generosity of our residents is nothing short of spectacular as we give freely of our time, talents and financial resources from Habitat Homes for single parents to Big Day at the Lake.

Mooresville Mayor Miles Atkins with Bill Russell at Barium Springs Luncheon

Mooresville Mayor Miles Atkins with Bill Russell at Barium Springs Luncheon


A few weeks ago, I attended a fundraiser for Barium Springs at The Cove Church in Mooresville.  Surrounded by approximately 400 other community and business leaders, we networked and discussed the issues of the day ranging from taxation to tolls waiting on the program to begin.  

Then the lights dimmed and I heard those words, those chilling words which seared into my soul.  I looked into the eyes which stared back into mine and the face of innocence weathered by years of abuse and neglect.  I listened as Barium Springs volunteers and school officials shared their own particular stories. Barium Springs provides an array of services for children, families and individuals throughout our state.  Their main objectives are to provide a safe home through residential homes and foster care; to heal the hurt for children who are troubled, abused or neglected; and to encourage a healthy start through educational and prevention programs.

I grew up with two parents who loved their children.  Mom and dad were both very active in the Rock Hill (SC) community serving in civic organizations like the Jaycees, Kiwanis, United Way, Red Cross and our church.  Dad worked with other kids as a commissioner of Little League Baseball and ironically daddy led an effort to create a Boys Home for kids who found themselves in need of mentoring and guidance.

To this day, when I call my mom she always ends the conversation telling me “I love you.”  And her words still warmly embrace me just as they did in my youth when she tucked me into bed each night.  Those words come harder for dad.  It’s his actions which speak louder than the words as we enjoy a Saturday afternoon football game together or a horseback ride through the woods on our family farm.

I listened that May day as teenagers told their stories of neglect.  Parents who sometimes never got out of bed, their minds and bodies wracked by years of substance abuse, leaving a trail of victims in their wake – among them their children.  Kids that before Barium Springs, never had a bed to sleep in or a pillow to rest their head. 

As I watched a short video, a young man appeared on the screen.  He spoke of the years of abuse at the hands of his father.  But it was the eyes which touched my heart. The pain and anguish that no child should ever have to endure.  Barium Springs has turned his life around and today he is a good student, involved in athletics, with a chance for a scholarship and a bright hope for the future.




Then he said it, those words which still bring tears to my eyes.  The first time they escaped his lips, I felt my eyes well up and I hoped those at my table wouldn’t see me weep.   At that moment in time, he was not speaking to a camera or the other 400 people in the room.  He was speaking to me when he said, “I want to grow up and be the daddy my father wasn’t.”

No one can undo the hurt or the scars they leave.  Memories may linger, but with a new day comes a promise of hope. The volunteers and contributors to Barium Springs provide that hope through support and unconditional love…and perhaps the chance to be a parent that their mother or father wasn’t.  

ill Russell

Bill Russell is the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce.  For information about Barium Springs, to set up a tour of their campus, or make a contribution call 704-872-4157 or visit

July 29, 2013 Posted by | Chamber of Commerce, Junior Chamber of Commerce (Jaycees), Personal, Social Causes | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Lesson of Unintended Consequences – Mecklenburg County’s Revaluation


Bill Russell, Sr. and Jill tending the cows on the farm

As many of you may know, my family has a farm in Rock Hill, SC where we still raise livestock and horses where they graze in the green pasture and each spring we plant a vegetable garden.  Year after year, generation after generation, we have continued that tradition since our family first settled there in the 1760’s.

Last year, my dad brought to my attention a blight which we seemed to have on our tomato plants.  We also had a pitiful, if not nonexistent, harvest of corn, beans, cantaloupes, and other assortment of goodies.     I wrote it off to bad weather – lack of rain – and perhaps some type of fungus. However, imagine my surprise when dad said again this year our plants are showing signs of disease as the leaves are withering up already.  Last year  the plants did not die – they simply did not yield and those that did looked malformed.

Dad took the soil down to the local Clemson Extension Agricultural office where they determined the manure that dad used to fertilize the soil from our livestock had a concentration of pesticide which came from the hay ingested by the cows and horses.  The pesticide used to kill the yellow weed had no harmful effects to the grass or to the livestock.  However, while not killing the plant outright, it had devastating effects on the growth and maturation of the plants and its produce.

Dad planting this year’s tomatoes

So what does manure and County Government have to do with each other?  Many of our businesses are just now aware that the revaluation, which property owners have been concerned about for months, are being passed on to many tenants in the form of CAM (Common Area Maintenance Charges) which typically are composed of insurance, janitorial, landscaping, and property taxes to name just a few.

Many of our smaller businesses including retail and key man offices are unprepared for the hefty hikes in CAM charges and are now having to figure these increases into the bottom line.  While all of our businesses and residents in Mecklenburg County have a fiduciary responsibility to pay taxes for municipal and county services including education, health and human services, transportation, and safety – these taxes should be fair and justifiable.

Data collected by the chamber of commerce indicates examples where the county’s assessment and independent evaluations are significantly different.  While the county government may be operating in compliance with rules, procedures, and an approved process which govern evaluations of residential and commercial properties, the system itself many argue is flawed and needs to be evaluated by an outside and independent review or audit.

In essence, commercial property owners and tenants are facing hardships which threaten their economic viability forcing some to make cuts in employment or in some cases close or move the business – an unintended consequence of the county’s actions.

The Chamber of Commerce will be encouraging our county officials to examine faults within the present system and correct them expeditiously.  If legislation is required in Raleigh that creates a fairer and equitable process, we will support that as well.

The good news for our family’s garden is that recognizing the problem and correcting it with nutrients we can neutralize the toxins, repair the damage to the soil and through hard work nurture a healthy crop in the future.

The lesson dad and I learned was we need to be careful just how much manure to use and be more careful what’s in it.  It’s a lesson we could all learn from whether a garden or a board room.

June 20, 2012 Posted by | Chamber of Commerce | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Lake Norman’s Version of Show and Tell

Mrs Hope's First Grade Class - Bill Russell, Finley Rd Elementary School

Nearly everyone has experienced “Show and Tell” whether it was when you were a student or perhaps assisting your child or niece with their homework.  When I was a youngster at Finley Road Elementary School in Rock Hill (SC),  I was asked to bring something or someone to school that week of significance to me to share with the rest of the class.  I have never been accused of being overly humble, even as a child, and I decided the best person to bring to show off – was me!

As the first-born child, my mother Sarah took great pains to detail every significant event of my childhood.  My baby book was filled with photos, captions detailing the event, locks of hair, and special cards and mementoes.  I can still recall taking the baby book down from the shelf and stripping many of the photos from the album and creating my own “Show and Tell” project.

That week I shared with my classmates the most significant moments of my life displaying the photos my mother worked so hard to compile.  Not satisfied with mom’s captions, I created new explanations for each photo, with my own creative and adventurous story.

Much to my mother’s chagrin, those photos never made their way back to where they belonged, perhaps strewn across the playground some 45 years ago.  Needless to say, she wasn’t at all happy with me about that.  

Bill Russell and Pat Golden, 2011 LKN Business Expo

On Monday, March the 5th, more than 160 of our Chamber members have the opportunity to “Show and Tell” at the largest business trade show in the Charlotte market.  Our Lake Norman Business Expo is designed for businesses to tell their unique stories and showcase their business.  If you are an exhibitor, no other venue can give you greater exposure and opportunity than the Expo.  If you are not an exhibitor, please come out and see Business at its Best and support the lake’s retail and service businesses.

By the way, my mother has always had the last word on the “Show and Tell” incident.  At significant family gatherings, mom has reminded my brother and sister why their baby book was not as detailed as theirs.  “It is because how bad your older brother was as a child.  You have Billy to blame,” mom constantly reminds them on this and many other countless examples.

I always respond that I was just breaking her in good for my future siblings.  While my exercise was not what my teacher had in mind, the Lake Norman Business Expo is our business communities’ moment to shine. I encourage everyone to participate – sharing the event through your social media and word of mouth and I’ll see you at the Expo!

For more information Visit the LKN Business Expo website or call the LKN Chamber at 704-892-1922.

February 28, 2012 Posted by | Chamber of Commerce | , , , , , , | 1 Comment