Russell’s Ramblings

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

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.

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October 27, 2015 Posted by | Personal, Politics | , , , , , , , , | 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

The Competitive Advantage – North Carolina’s wireless network

Last week, I was speaking to a chamber member who had called me from his car in a rural area of South Carolina.  While we did not experience the familiar “dropped call,” our reception was poor and he said he would have to call me back when he reached the city.

Each week announcements of a new smart phone with its amazing capabilities flood our email.  While you can literally speak into your iPhone and have Siri look up the closest Starbucks, it wasn’t that long ago that we were dependent on faxing documents over telephone lines.  Now edits can be made on the run and transmitted back to a sender in moments.

Michael Douglas in Wall Street

Michael Douglas in Wall Street

You may recall in the movie Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps (based on the 1987 movie Wall Street), the chief protagonist of the film, Gordon Gekko, collects his belongings when he is paroled from prison in 2001 after serving eleven years for insider trading and securities fraud.  In the film, a prison guard releases personal items that have been placed in storage, among them, Gekko’s dated cell phone – a bulky beige phone that resembles a walky talky from World War II.

Ironically the cell phone he returned to Gordon was a Motorola DynaTac 8000X and represented stateoftheart technology costing over $4000 when he went into prison in 1990.  The device was over a foot long and weighed nearly 2lbs. Far different from the Droids and Apples which fit conveniently in our pockets now.

The smart phones and tablets we use today carry out many of the capabilities required of our older desk top computers.  It is not just the corporate executive who is reliant on this ever-changing technology.  The small business owner, retirees, even today’s students are dependent on mobile communication technology to provide productivity and entertainment.  In just the last two years alone, AT&T has invested more than $500 million in the Charlotte region in its wireless and wireline networks, with a focus on expanding 4G coverage and continually improving the performance of its networks.

N.C. House Speaker Thom Tillis has said, “Investments in the state’s broadband

Bill Russell, NC House Speaker Thom Tillis, and Jerry Broadway

Bill Russell, NC House Speaker Thom Tillis, and Jerry Broadway

networks are critical to keeping North Carolina competitive…”   Firms like AT&T understand the critical need to make significant investments in technology. It is also very important that we have a state legislature that creates and fosters regulations which encourage our communications industry.

The strong support of the Charlotte region’s business and political leaders have spurred mobile Internet upgrades and helped business prosper giving us a major competitive advantage, as nearly a third of the United States still lacks 4G service.

Whether it’s placing an order online, checking movie times over the Internet, or doing research for that homework assignment – our local communications industry and state elected officials are making investments in our commerce and industry, quality of life, and future!

W.E. “Bill” Russell, CCE IOM

 

April 11, 2013 Posted by | Chamber of Commerce | , , , , , | Leave a comment