LG Program Manager
Q: What do you do at the Chamber and how long have you worked there?
A: I am the Leadership Gainesville program manager, as well as the workforce coordinator for the business community. The Leadership Gainesville program has been in existence for 48 years, and it allows the employers in the community that see someone with the capabilities of leading their company to give them the extra boost to move up. We want people to see that there’s more to Gainesville than what the majority of people know about. With the workforce, my goal was to make the connections with the business community, especially the HR people, to find out what their needs are, and we would try to find the solution to whatever their problems were.
Q: Where are you originally from?
A: I was born in a little town called Four Oaks, which is in Johnston County, NC. When I got married, I moved to Raleigh, where I started my first job, which was at Winn Dixie. I then left Winn Dixie and went to selling furniture, then went to selling automobiles. My wife was working with Nationwide Insurance Company, and they built a huge facility here in Gainesville. They wanted her to transfer and, knowing that I could sell cars anywhere, I said why not because it was a way for her to work up the ladder.
Q: What is your favorite chamber event?
A: I love the annual meeting because it is a way for us to really interact with people that we haven’t really seen, but I also love it when we have the after hours at Gatornationals. We are outside and have a huge crowd out there, and unbeknownst to a lot of people, I’m a people person. I like to be around people, see them having a good time, and see the smiles on their faces and the camaraderie that we’ve got here in the community.
Q: What is one example of your work we can see in the community?
A: We had a program, and we did away with it, but it was called Connect. We had a problem where the economy tanked, and a lot of people lost their jobs, and I’m talking professional people. It was a way for us to give back to the community by helping them realize that it’s not their fault and to stop blaming themselves. Every Monday night, I would hold a session here, and it was talking about upgrading your résumé, how to make that eye contact when you’re talking with people, and how to dress professionally. We helped put so many people back to work in good paying jobs, and that’s one of the things that I’m extremely proud of.
Also, one of the biggest things I love is my relationship with this group called Peaceful Paths, which is a domestic abuse network here in Gainesville. I have been on their board now for either 25 or 26 years. The reason that I got on the board was because my first wife—we got divorced—was actually killed by her second husband, and she did not deserve it. We had two kids. My legacy to her is to stay on that board for as long as they allow me to because domestic violence is ridiculous.
Q: Who is your role model?
A: My biggest role model would be Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and it was because he wanted to make a change without all of the craziness that’s going on with what we’ve got right now. I recall when I was growing up, when we got killed, I cried like a baby. I kept seeing this man trying to make change, and he would do it in a way that was nonconfrontational. His vision and everything kept going over and over and over again, which was we are basically all the same and we need to treat each other with respect.
Q: What is the best meal that you have ever had?
A: My mother’s cooking. Whatever she cooked. I didn’t care if it was breakfast, lunch, or dinner—that lady could cook. She did it all from memory and it was good old Southern cooking. My mom was the best cook that ever lived, I wish she was still here.
Now, down here, one of the best I’ve had is at Mi Apá, and there’s this little place called Country Foodly here in town that is a mom-and-pop operation that has got some good food.
Q: What is your favorite holiday?
A: Christmas. I love Christmas because my mom, who got me started with decorating, made all her decorations, and I would look forward to her pulling that stuff out. I’m the third of nine kids, and we would go into the woods and cut a big pine tree down and bring it in the house to decorate that thing. Everywhere I’ve worked, I’ve always put up a Christmas tree. I’ll decorate the whole place because I like to see the joy that it brings to people.
Q: What is your favorite song or musician?
A: God, I got so many! I love the O’Jays, and I also love “The Way We Were” by Barbara Streisand. I love that song. I also love “I Will Always Love You” by Ms. Whitney Houston.
Q: What is your favorite dessert?
A: Blueberry anything. I love blueberry pie, but I can just pick them up and eat blueberries. They are so good off the bush, there is no comparison to it.
Q: What is a subject that you could lecture on without any preparation?
A: That we are all the same. We need to quit looking at race, quit looking at money, quit looking at everything. That’s the one thing that bothers me, the disconnect that we have got here in Gainesville. When I moved here, it really blew my mind, the East/West divide, but when I delve into it a little bit more, I see the reason is because some people want it like that. We need to come together as a people and look for the good in all people. I got no problem talking about that to anybody.
Q: Can you describe the Chamber in one word?
A: Awesome. It’s awesome because it is totally about the entire community, no matter whether you’re rich or poor, no matter whether you’re black, white, Asian, Hispanic, whatever. It’s about the community and that’s what I love about it, it’s an awesome agency.