Charlotte has its share of movers and shakers. I’ve crossed paths with many of them at big events around town. I’ve shaken hands with a few. But sometimes I wonder what it would be like to just sit back and have a drink with them. No interview questions. No notepad and pen. Just a candid conversation for my own inspiration.
Here are five I’d like to grab a drink with:
Smoky is the chairman of Bissell, a development company he founded in 1964, and the visionary behind Ballantyne. He rose on the scene of city expansion when he helped develop more than two million square feet of SouthPark office space.
By adding Ballantyne to his resume, he has developed more than six million square feet of Class A commercial office space, four hotels and a golf course.
I once met him at the 2013 Stiletto Sprint benefiting the Carolinas Ovarian Cancer Fund. He was in drag, along with a bunch of male doctors. It definitely broke the ice.
My conversation starter: What does it feel like to look out over a commercial empire like Ballantyne and think, I created this?
Jill has gone from working as Northern California Finance Director for Dianne Feinstein’s 1992 U.S. Senate campaign to directing the UNC Chapel Hill International Center to serving on local boards like Levine Museum of the New South, Planned Parenthood Health Systems, NC Arts Council and Women’s Impact Fund.
Currently, she is Chair of the Board of Directors at Planned Parenthood South Atlantic.
I first heard Jill speak at a Planned Parenthood Care More Judge Less luncheon — one of those events that hands out beaded condom necklaces to wear back to your office.
My conversation starter: How do you choose so many causes — and know you’re capable of leading them?
Harvey B. Gantt
First off, this man has a cultural center in Charlotte named after him. But he worked up to that, from creating Gantt-Huberman Architects in the 1970s to becoming the first African-American elected Mayor in Charlotte in 1983.
Later, he agreed to having the center named after him at a time when he saw that “our nation and world still struggle with acknowledging and appreciating our differences.”
My conversation starter: How do you think Charlotte can still do a better job of embracing differences and diversity?
Jane is basically the savior of United Way of Central Carolinas. She became executive director in 2009 and lifted the nonprofit out of the financial crisis left behind by former CEO Gloria Pace King, rebuilding donor relations and altering policies so King’s pay/benefits scandal couldn’t repeat itself.
I watched her throw her last donor pitch (in the literal form of a baseball at Romare Bearden Park) before retiring in 2015. Her final annual campaign with United Way raised $21.6 million.
My conversation starter: How do you re-establish your sense of self-worth after leaving this work behind?
I’ve spotted Maureen, a WBTV anchor, on too many nonprofit event red carpets to name. On top of her full-throttle journalism gig, she does charity work with Assistance League of Charlotte, American Red Cross, Second Harvest Foodbank of Metrolina, Community Blood Center of the Carolinas, the American Heart Association, Dress For Success — and the list goes on. Plus, she practices yoga.
My conversation starter: How do you keep up the energy to do it all?
Teach me your ways.
Photos: CharlotteFive, Dianna Augustine, Charlotte Observer, T. Ortega Gaines/Charlotte Observer, John D. Simmons/Charlotte Observer