Viewing life through a different lens


Chris Hailey, 2016 Lake Norman Chamber Diversity Chair and 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.

Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce Honors Local Public Safety Officers

The Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce saluted the men and women who work tirelessly to protect and serve the families and businesses of the Lake Norman region at a Public Safety Luncheon held at the Peninsula Club in Cornelius.  The eighth annual event was keynoted by Tamara Williams, Dean of Central Piedmont Community College – Merancas Campus. Dean Williams shared the role CPCC plays in training public safety officers and first responders.   Chamber president Bill Russell, emceed the event and spoke to the critical role the police, fire, and first responders play in making the community a great place to live, work, and visit.  Russell and 2013 Chamber Chairman of the Board Wendy Moran, presented awards to the most outstanding officer from each North Mecklenburg department, selected by their respective chief.

The awards program was presented by Wells Fargo Bank and sponsored by Lake Norman Publications, Central Piedmont Community College, and the Peninsula Club.     The Lake Norman Chamber Public Service Award recipients for 2013 included: Officer Joseph Squashic – Cornelius Police Department, Officer Phillip E. Geiger, Jr – Davidson Police Department, Detective Jennifer Sprague – Huntersville Police Department, Firefighter Bill Shick  – Cornelius Fire Department, Deputy Chief Ryan Monteith  – Davidson Fire Department, Firefighter Bill Suthard  – Huntersville Fire Department, and Brandy N. Lankford  – North Mecklenburg Rescue Squad, Inc.     The Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce represents approximately 1,000 businesses in the Cornelius, Davidson, Huntersville, and greater Lake Norman region.  For more information about the Chamber visit

2013 Public Safety reduced (640x424)

Picture: (From right to left) First row: Cornelius Fire Chief Jim Barbee, Officer Joseph Squashic – Cornelius Police Department, Davidson Police Officer Phillip E. Geiger, Jr.,  Deputy Chief Ryan Monteith  – Davidson Fire Department, and Chamber Chairman of the Board Wendy Moran.  Second Row: Lake Norman Chamber President Bill Russell, Huntersville Police Department Deputy Chief Michael Kee, Huntersville Fire Chief Larry Irvin,  Deputy Chief Ryan Monteith  – Davidson Fire Department, Cornelius Police Department Major Kevin Black, Davidson Police Chief Jeanne Miller, Davidson Town Manager Leamon Brice, and North Mecklenburg Rescue Squad Chief John Stroup  Photo courtesy of Patrick Nicholson

Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce President’s Message

Lake Norman Chamber Members and Stakeholders:                                                    

CMS BondsChamber Backs Bonds
The Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors has voted to endorse several bond packages before North Mecklenburg voters on November 5th.  The Chamber is encouraging its members to
VOTE YES for the Charlotte Mecklenburg School Bonds and the Central Piedmont Community College Bonds before Mecklenburg County voters in the upcoming referendum.  Chamber members who are registered voters in the Town of Cornelius are also encouraged to vote for the three municipal bonds on the ballot.  These bonds will be the topic of the next Focus Friday on October 18th at the Chamber.  Current CMS school board representative Rhonda Lennon (District #1) and Carrie Kester, Chair at Community of Huntersville Education Collaborative will provide more information regarding the bonds.   Read more about the Bonds and the Chamber’s position here. 

Forums held in Davidson and Huntersville give voters a chance to meet the candidates
The Chamber will host a candidate forum in Davidson and Huntersville next week.  A forum was held in Cornelius October 1st.  The two-hour forum will be held at the respective town halls. The forum for Davidson is Tuesday, October 15th and Huntersville, Thursday Oct 17th. All forums are 7:00 – 9:00 pm. The events are moderated by Jerry Hancock, General Partner of Alexander Hancock Associates. Hancock is well known in Charlotte as a guest commentator on “All Things Considered,” National Public Radio, and the publishing of numerous journal articles. For over 25 years he hosted programs on public television including FINAL EDITION on Channel 42, a weekly roundtable discussion of current news topics with local reporters.

The forum in Davidson is co-sponsored by and the Huntersville Forum is co-sponsored by the Lake Norman Political Association.  For more information, read about it here.

Public Safety Luncheon Salutes our First Responders
The Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce will host the eighth annual salute to North Mecklenburg Public Safety officers and volunteers at a special luncheon Thursday, October 17th at noon at the Peninsula Club (19101 Peninsula Club Drive) in Cornelius. The event, Presented by Wells Fargo Bank, is sponsored by Central Piedmont Community College – Merancas Campus and The Herald Newspaper. An officer from the Cornelius, Davidson, and the Huntersville Police Departments will be honored as well as members of the North Meck Rescue, and the local fire departments.

In addition to honoring the officers, the Guest Speaker will be Tamara Williams, the new Dean of Central Piedmont Community College – Merancas Campus. Dean Williams will touch on the role CPCC plays in training public safety officers and first responders.
Join us as we salute our first responders!  RSVP by calling the Chamber at 704-892-1922 or online.  The cost is $16 for Chamber members. 
Read more about this event here.

Final Thoughts
While the Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce is a non-partisan organization and we do not endorse candidates for elected office, we do believe in the principles of good government.  We strongly encourage our members to actively engage themselves in the political debate in their local community, state, and nation.  It is a shame that typically, only 13% of the electorate turn out to select elected leaders which will govern our communities and schools.

The Lake Norman Chamber encourages you to get to know the candidates running for office at all levels and vote for those who best represent your values and that of your business.  We would also ask that if you are a Mecklenburg County voter, you Vote FOR the CMS and CPCC Bonds.  If a Cornelius resident, Vote to SUPPORT all three Cornelius Town Bonds.  These important bonds will provide the financial resources for our roads, school, and quality of life and will be critical components for our economic development efforts and the business growth of our region.

Perhaps Abraham Lincoln put it best when he said, “Elections belong to the people. It’s their decision. If they decide to turn their back on the fire and burn their behinds, then they will just have to sit on their blisters.”

Let’s all hope looking back from the days ahead, we don’t regret the community and region we could have been simply because we didn’t take time to be informed and take advantage of our right to vote on election day.


W.E. “Bill” Russell, CCE, IOM
President & CEO
Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce
704-892-1922 (o)

Bob McIntosh and Bill Ellison, partners with the McIntosh Law Firm receive the Duke Energy Citizenship and Service Award from 2012 Chamber Chairman Jack Salzman and Tim Gause, Region Director, Government and Community Relations for Duke Energy.  Pictured left to right: Bob McIntosh, Jack Salzman, Bill Ellison, and Tim Gause.

Bob McIntosh and Bill Ellison, partners with the McIntosh Law Firm receive the Duke Energy Citizenship and Service Award from 2012 Chamber Chairman Jack Salzman and Tim Gause, Region Director, Government and Community Relations for Duke Energy. Pictured left to right: Bob McIntosh, Jack Salzman, Bill Ellison, and Tim Gause.

The McIntosh Law Firm, located in the Historic Davidson Cotton Mill, was selected by the Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce as the 2012 Duke Energy Citizenship and Service Award at the Chamber’s Annual Meeting.  Representing the firm were Firm Partners Bob McIntosh and Bill Ellison along with several other firms attorneys.

The award was presented by Tim Gause, Region Director, Government and Community Relations for Duke Energy and 2012 Chamber Chairman of the Board Jack Salzman.  Gause pointed out that by definition, the award is a tribute to those who make a difference in their communities or places of work by using their time, talents and philanthropy to positively impact the lives of others.

Gause told a sold out crowd of business leaders, “The McIntosh Law Firm is in itself the definition of this award.  The principles of the Firm, Bob McIntosh and Bill Ellison, set the tone in their office.  The Firm writes the checks but the people behind that piece of paper make the difference.  All members of The McIntosh Law Firm are encouraged to find some way to give back to their community.  Many of the attorneys sit on non-profit or town government boards and a good number of the remaining staff volunteer their time to various other organizations.”

Gause added, “It is not uncommon to see any one of The McIntosh Law Firm employees flipping pancakes for Civitan, grilling hot dogs at Big Day at the Lake, handing out popcorn at Christmas in Davidson, shooting hoops at a Davidson College basketball game or playing golf alongside Special Olympians at a golf tournament.  It would be difficult to attend any local school event in North Mecklenburg County without seeing a sign or banner displayed with the Firm’s logo in support of scholastic sports and education in general.”

Founded in November, 1997, The McIntosh Law Firm has been dedicated to fostering an environment in which families, businesses, and the community at large can prosper. The Firm strives to support local artistic, athletic, charitable, cultural and educational institutions. By working to further these cultural and academic interests, the Firm hopes the community from which it draws its clients and employees will become enriched for many generations to come.

For more information on the Lake Norman Chamber visit

Pioneer Springs Community School – Looking ahead to our past

Pioneer Springs Community School

This past week, Pioneer Springs Community School hosted a ribbon cutting of a new minimal-tuition private school at the site of the old Croft School House.  This new school is rooted in the basic school philosophy of Dr. Ernest Boyer, former president for the Advancement of Teaching.  This education philosophy is the foundation of the Community School in Davidson and the Corvian Community School.   Pioneer Springs will open this fall with a Kindergarten and First grade and plans to open another grade level each year thereafter.

Abigail Jennings, a Charter Member of the Lake Norman Chamber and president of Lake Norman Realty Company knew of my interest in history.  I also serve as Chairman of the Historic  Hugh Torance House and Store Board of Directors in Huntersville.    The Croft School House, site of the new Pioneer Springs Community School, first opened its doors in 1890 to serve the rural, railroad-centered business district of Croft in North Mecklenburg.  It’s been almost 80 years since its closing but I was amazed at how many alumni still turned out to take part in the announcement.

One of the senior women, Mrs. Barnette, had no idea as to my identity – actually that wasn’t important to her – as she approached to show me a picture of her class with their teacher.  She pointed out some of the students in the old black and white photo as her eyes sparkled and the bright smile filled her face as she pointed out her friends and neighbors. She traced her finger over each face on the picture, stopping to tell a brief story about each student as her memories took us both back in time.  

Bill Russell with Abigail Jennings

The school was converted to a soldier’s home after the War (World War II) for the returning vets and several years ago became an historic landmark and today also houses an architect who specializes in historic preservation.

I could tell Abigail was as passionate about the school as Mrs. Barnette was about its history.  I asked what inspired her to get involved in this project.  Abigail stated, “My husband and I decided to join two other families to start Pioneer Springs Community School, as we had recently been exposed to the popular educational model of “The Basic School” taught at the Community School of Davidson last year when our daughter attended Corvian Community School.”

Abigail added, “Unfortunately, when Corvian received their charter, everyone had to go through the lottery process and most families did not get back in. We realized that with over 4,000 children on waiting lists for these two schools, our area desperately needed another school that provided this type of holistic learning environment, and that’s how it all got started.”

During the opening ceremony, those of us in attendance were reminded of the words from T.S. Elliott when he said, “We shall not cease from exploration. And the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.”

Alumni of Croft School

Walking the halls of the old school house last week, I pictured Mrs. Barnette as a little girl. Sitting intently in her chair, listening to her teacher teaching the basic English and math of her day.  She and the other students would later be responsible for much of what we know in North Mecklenburg and now Lake Norman.  Now eighty years later, those same classrooms will again be a center of learning and once again we as a community will arrive where it all started and we will know the place for the very first time.


Pioneer Springs is currently accepting applications for enrollment in Kindergarten and First Grade.  For more information please visit, or email

Lake Norman Chamber President’s e-Brief for July 20, 2102


Bill Russell, President & CEO Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce

Focus Friday examines Huntersville Bond Package July 27th

Join us next Friday, July 27th at 8:00 to 9:30 a.m. for the Chamber Focus Friday which examines the $29.5 million bond referendum on the ballot in November for Huntersville voters. The bonds would appear as three separate items on the November ballot. The first and largest is $17.35 million of bonds for transportation projects. Assistant Town Manager Gerry Vincent and Finance Director Janet Stoner will speak to the specifics of the package with Huntersville Commissioner Charlie Jeter speaking in support of the bonds. The Focus Friday is open to all members and participation by those who attend is encouraged.  Focus Friday is sponsored by and


Leadership Lake Norman now accepting applications

The Chamber is now accepting applications for the 2012-2013 Leadership Lake Norman program.  Now entering its 16th year, 287 business leaders have graduated from the program which examines the quality of life, history, governance, business and commerce, and infrastructure of the Lake Norman region.  Whether you are new to the area, a native of North Mecklenburg, a young employee, or a seasoned business professional – The Leadership Lake Norman program gives you a unique look into our community and region. Tuition for Chamber members is $425.  Individuals or small businesses absorbing the cost can contact the Chamber for payment options.  All applications must be received by August 24th.  Visit the Leadership Lake Norman page on the website for more information and the application.

Revaluation reviewers plan public meetings

Pearson’s Appraisal Service, Inc., the firm selected by Mecklenburg county to conduct a review of the 2011 Revaluation, plans public meetings to receive feedback from citizens. Five meetings have been scheduled.  Locally, a meeting will be held Tuesday, July 31, 7-9 p.m. at Cornelius Town Hall, 21445 Catawba Ave.  The Mecklenburg County Board of Commissioners in May voted in favor of an independent review of the county’s 2011 property revaluation, after months of back-and-forth with county officials and complaints from citizen-led community groups and town leaders who believe the county violated state statutes and made assessment errors during the 2011 revaluation.

HFFA Needs volunteers for the AAU Diving National Championships

Visit Lake Norman is proud to announce that divers from across the US will be coming to Huntersville to compete for their chance at a National Championship at HFFA from July 25th to July 30th, 2012.  HFFA needs your help in making these National Championships one to remember for these hard-working athletes.  Hospitality workers, scoring table assistants, ticket takers and parking attendants and others are needed to help the event run smoothly.  When you volunteer, you receive an event T-Shirt and general admission tickets to the event(s) of your choice. Earn HFFA Membership CREDIT when you Volunteer.For more information on volunteering for this event email their AAU Volunteer Coordinator Teresa Bock at and sign-up online HERE.

Can’t Volunteer?  Join as a spectator.  Tickets are available online at   Simply click on the AAU logo to purchase your tickets.  Limited VIP seating is available.  Buy your tickets early. 

Final Thoughts

At the Chamber’s Education PowerLuncheon featuring new CMS Superintendent Dr. Heath

Adam Boatsman, Boatsman Gillmore, PLLC

Morrison, Chamber Board Member Adam Boatsman gave his time as a sponsor (Boatsman Gillmore PLLC) to Georgia Harris, Executive Director of the Ada Jenkins Center.  Georgia talked about the Ada LEARN Works program.  When Georgia stated the program needed business support in the form of contributions, Adam stated his CPA firm of Boatsman Gillmore PLLC would match whatever the room raised. North Carolina House Speaker Thom Tillis, also in attendance, asked how much was needed and made the first $1,000 pledge himself. In minutes, $8,000 was raised for LEARN Works.

Tomorrow (Saturday, July 21st), Big Day at the Lake 8 will allow 144 kids from largely single parent families with Big Brothers / Big Sisters to enjoy Lake Norman.  What started as a dream for Business Today founder and publisher Dave Yochum has become a lifetime memory that many Charlotte regional kids will never forget: an afternoon on the Carolina’s greatest lake – LakeNorman.  In the process, local businesses and individuals have contributed $62,000 blowing away this year’s goal of $50,000   

Just last month, our Chamber of Commerce raised $71,500 for a new Habitat home for a single mother and her two kids.  Every day I see the generosity of local business owners and citizens as they turn dreams into reality.  Allowing words to speak boldly of their intentions and actions to speak louder than the words.

When companies like MSC decide this is the new home for their operations, I’m sure it is influenced in part by the outstanding workforce we have in place and the ideal transportation corridor to move their product.  However, it is also because the Lake Norman and Charlotte region is home to business leaders who step up to the plate for those who need a helping hand, elected officials who understand leadership is taking a bold stand and setting the example, and a people who settle for nothing less than their very best.

Chamber of Commerce business leaders get briefing on Huntersville Bond Package

The Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce will convene a special business briefing on Friday, July 27that 8:00 to 9:30 a.m. for the monthly  Focus Friday which examines a $29.5 million bond referendum on the ballot in November for Huntersville voters. The bonds would appear as three separate items on the November ballot. The first and largest is $17.35 million of bonds for transportation projects. While the ballot language doesn’t include any specific projects, the request is tied to projects outlined in the town’s Capital Improvement Program (CIP). Residents may vote on $7.15 million of bonds for public facility construction and improvement. That money would be used for two additional fire stations, one for the southwest quadrant of town in the Long Creek Volunteer Fire Department service area, the other to serve the area north and west of I-77.

Commissioner Charlie Jeter will speak on Huntersville Bond Referendum

The final item would be $5 million of bonds for park and recreation facilities. The bulk of this – more than $4 million – would likely go toward construction of a recreation center, with another $500,000 currently earmarked for improvements to the farmer’s market downtown.   The Focus Friday, which is intended to inform chamber of commerce members, is also open to interested non-members of the chamber and participation by those who attend is encouraged. Speaking on the bonds is Huntersville Assistant Town Manager Gerry Vincent along with Janet Stoner, the town’s Finance Director.  Also speaking supporting the package is Huntersville Commissioner Charlie Jeter.  Focus Friday is sponsored by and  The meeting takes place at the Chamber at 19900 West Catawba Avenue in Cornelius (second floor Randy Marion Conference room).  For more information see the Chamber’s website at