Chamber of Commerce
What led you to take on the head leadership role with the Hoover Chamber?
I had been working as a registered representative with New York Life Insurance Company when another agent showed me an ad for this position with the Hoover Chamber. My prior position as director of growth and development for Civitan International World Headquarters, based in Birmingham, was ideally suited to qualify me for the Hoover Chamber position. In that job, I had been responsible for conducting seminars to teach others how to recruit members to nonprofit civic organizations, and the transition to the chamber of commerce was a natural fit.
What do you see as the major success points the chamber has achieved under your leadership?
I think the biggest points are the programs we have initiated in recognizing our public servants: first our Firefighters and Police Officers of the Year; later adding the Jailers and 911 Operators of the Year; the School Employees of the Year; and most recently the Annual Freedom Award, given each July to coincide with the Fourth of July, but awarded at our monthly luncheon in July. We also have given out almost $250,000 from our Lila Parks Scholarships over the last 20 years.
What are some new efforts/initiatives the chamber is considering for 2015?
Our inaugural Forks & Corks Gala, held Oct. 11, at the Aveda Institute was a huge success, with a majority of these funds going toward additional scholarships. With sponsorships funded by presenting sponsors Hendrick Auto Mall, American Family Care, Wrapsody and Schaeffer Eye Center, these scholarships will be “named” scholarships and are more flexible in terms of who can earn the scholarships.
Those who attend the chamber events can attest to your wit and engaging master of ceremonies-style delivery. How did you develop such a commanding presence behind the podium?
I took a Dale Carnegie Course at age 33. I was so frightened in front of a group of 25 or so. I was scared to death I would mess up just giving my own name. A few years later, with Civitan International, I was giving speeches to 1,500 people at conventions. The best thing I learned was to be able to laugh at myself. I figured I might as well, because everyone else is going to laugh at me anyway. I’ve always had a sense of humor, and I figured if I can tie in some wit with the serious stuff, then people will listen to what I have to say.
In terms of luncheon speakers, who’s on your bucket list to address the chamber?
t took me several months to get SEC Commissioner Mike Slive scheduled for April 2012, then I had to miss it to take my wife to the Mayo Clinic for surgery. It’s also taken a while to get SEC Director of Football Referees Steve Shaw for next March — don’t miss him, he’s great! I would love to get University of Alabama Athletic Director Bill Battle but haven’t had much success. I did get Auburn’s A.D., Jay Jacobs, after their national championship in 2010, and had Alabama’s A.D., Mal Moore, in 2007 right after he hired Nick Saban as head football coach. I would also like to get Eli Gold at some point, but haven’t had any success there.
Anything I did not ask, or that you otherwise want to share?
I’m in my 20th year now at the Hoover Area Chamber of Commerce, and we’ve come a long way. I work with an incredible group of volunteers on our board of directors, and I have been very fortunate to have outstanding professionals serve as chamber presidents — including Jason Cobb, now with America’s First Federal Credit Union, serving two years as chamber president. We have outstanding volunteers serving committee chairmanships.This chamber would not be anything like it is today without our volunteers that make it all happen. All I do is schedule the events on the calendar — these volunteers make it “click,” make it all worthwhile, and make my job so enjoyable. I love them all!