I celebrated my two-year anniversary with the Lake Gaston Regional Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday, July 15. The time seems to have flown by, yet it seems like I’ve been here forever. I’d like to reflect on what brought me here, growth I have seen, and progress I want to continue to pursue.
As many of you know, I spent a happy eight years as the Director of Tourism Development and Marketing with Halifax County Convention & Visitors Bureau and before that role, four years with the Roanoke Valley Chamber of Commerce. I loved both of these positions and grew from my experiences in each. What I loved about that work and the work I am doing now is that I get to promote the very best aspects of our communities and work to strengthen areas in which we may need improvement.
One of the first people to whom I reached out for information about the Lake Gaston Chamber was Kathy Dikeman, whom I had known for several years via O’Sail. Kathy is very passionate about Lake Gaston and thought I could be a good fit. I then talked to Gene St. Clair of Roanoke Porta-Johns, who has served many years on the Lake Gaston Chamber board of directors and whom I had also known for years, stretching back to my time with the Roanoke Valley Chamber of Commerce. Gene also thought I should explore the idea of coming to Lake Gaston. The icing on the cake was a meeting one evening at The Pointe with Gene, wife Ann Horne and a fellow I had never met – Bill Owens of Ace Hardware and Chamber board president.
While I had enjoyed the positive and productive conversations I had with both Kathy and Gene, it was after meeting Bill and seeing his love for Lake Gaston and desire to see positive growth and progress from both a business and residential standpoint that I knew pursuing this opportunity was right. Bill wasn’t afraid of change; in fact, he embraced it. I’m the type of person who never accepts the reasoning that we do something because we have always done it that way. If that way works and is truly the best way, then keep it up. If, however, there are other ideas or the old way no longer fits, then let’s break the mold and begin anew.
One of the first things that we did was establish ourselves officially as the Lake Gaston Regional Chamber of Commerce. Yes, we only added one word, but that word is pivotal. If you’ve heard me speak to a group or read some of my articles you know that Lake Gaston is a region in every sense. Lake Gaston isn’t summarized by an either-or statement; Lake Gaston is a both-and! We are not JUST North Carolina. We are BOTH North Carolina AND Virginia. We are not just Warren County. We are BOTH Warren County AND Halifax, Northampton, Brunswick and Mecklenburg. We are not just businesses. We are BOTH businesses AND government, civic, non-profit, church, arts, culture and people. We only move forward by working together.
I won’t be here forever, but when it is my time to go, I want to leave both the Lake Gaston region and the Lake Gaston Regional Chamber better for another person to take the helm and love this region (its businesses, organizations and people) and this Chamber the way I do. I look forward to attracting new businesses and organizations to the Lake Gaston Regional Chamber family and to work together to create a surge in the economy and in people choosing Lake Gaston as their full-time or second home. Lake Gaston is a jewel for both North Carolina and Virginia, and we want more people to experience what Lake Gaston has to offer. Thank you, Lake Gaston, for your support this past two years! Reach out with your ideas and suggestions, and let’s work together for Lake Gaston’s future.