Future 10 Fall 2016
Meet 10 of the young professionals who are making a positive impact on the future of Brunswick County.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY Lindsey A. Miller
The future of any community depends on its ability to foster great leaders who make their neighborhoods work for everybody. And Brunswick County has no shortage of impressive trailblazers working hard in business and civic capacities to contribute to the wellbeing of Brunswick County.
In 2012 Brunswick County Chamber of Commerce introduced the Future 10, a group of young professionals who are community minded and enthusiastic about Brunswick County and who live up to the chamber’s motto of “Building Community and Supporting Business.”
A new group of Future 10 leaders has been named for 2016-17. The chamber invited coworkers, supervisors, employees, business owners, friends and family to nominate outstanding young men and women who are younger than 40 and who demonstrate a commitment to excellence in their careers. The chosen professionals are actively involved in the community through a civic organization, are passionate about Brunswick County — whether they were born and raised here or are a recent transplant — and are making a positive impact in our county.
On the following pages you’ll hear their stories and come to see that they, like the inaugural class, are key players in the future of Brunswick County.
Leaders: Drs. Justin and Tori Asbury
Title/Company: Lead Physicians at Novant Health Oceanside Family Medicine
Ages: Justin, 34 / Tori, 33
The first couple to be nominated as Future 10 leaders, Drs. Justin and Tori Asbury made their shared dream of living at the North Carolina coast a reality in 2014 when they moved to Brunswick County and opened Novant Health Oceanside Family Medicine in Leland.
On being part of this year’s Future 10, Justin says, “I hope [this award] shows others of the great potential in this county.” Tori appreciates the support they have had from the community and says that the support “has enabled us to make a positive impact here.”
Both Justin and Tori completed medical school at Edward Via Virginia College of Osteopathic Medicine in Blacksburg, Va., followed by residency in Newport News, Va. Before joining Novant Health, the husband-and-wife team practiced together at a family medicine clinic in Elizabethton, Tenn.
Recognizing the need for more primary-care providers in Brunswick County, the doctors enjoy their roles as family physicians. “We have the ability to care for patients of all ages and provide personalized care that everyone desires, at a standard that should be expected,” Justin says. “This allows us to develop relationships with families and multiple generations.”
Within the two years the Asburys have been practicing in Leland, Tori saw a tremendous need for obesity care and prevention, particularly in children. In 2015 she became certified as a Diplomate of the American Board of Obesity Medicine and she emphasizes nutrition and lifestyle changes in the practice. “We’ve seen many positive changes in individual patients and families,” she says. “I hope this will eventually translate to improved health overall in our community.”
The Asburys take their commitment to family outside of the office as well, actively participating and volunteering with multiple community organizations, including Open House Youth Shelter and Leland Christian Academy. They support a variety of youth athletics by providing on-site physicals.
Justin’s philosophy to community is to lead by example. “I see it as a way to live out what we try to teach our kids about doing the right thing every day,” he says.
Leader: Heather Coley
Title/Company: Director, For Kids Only Child Development Center, Inc.
Born on Independence Day in 1977 in Goldsboro, N.C., Heather Coley has been a firecracker ever since. Look up the definition to the word leader and it could have been written specifically for Coley; she is a forward thinker and a great problem solver; she has excellent people skills; she accepts constructive criticism well and uses it for self-improvement; and she has solid organizational skills. In a word, she has the spark that qualifies her for the Future 10.
As the director of a licensed developmental day facility serving children diagnosed with special needs as well as typically developing children, she has a passion for the happiness and the future of the children and their families in the community. “I know all of our families would attest that when someone cares about children and families the way we do, child care can be one of the most rewarding experiences,” she says.
Since the age of 17, Coley has worked in childcare. She graduated from East Carolina University in 2001 with a bachelor’s degree in birth-to-kindergarten education and promptly moved to Calabash, where she began an internship with For Kids Only as a special education teacher and interventionist. Fifteen years later, she now manages relationships with multiple agencies, helps more than 200 families in four different counties each year, oversees a staff of 60 plus and coordinates programs with Brunswick County schools, protective services and Smart Start of Brunswick County. She is also a member of many boards. Life is fast paced for Coley, and that is just how she likes it. “There are easy days and there are hard days, but as most people will tell you, I smile through it all!”
Coley says she is “humbled and honored” at being recognized by the community as one of Brunswick County’s Future 10. She says community means many things to her: family, friends, coworkers and people she doesn’t know working toward a single common goal “to make our area a better place for us, our kids and the next generation.”
Leader: Carolina Cowan
Title/Company: Vice President of Operations and Consumer Relations, Strings and Beyond
“I always thought that I would be a teacher when I grew up, but my financial goals led me down the business track instead,” Carolina Cowan says. This explains why she is so passionate about the Civitan Apple Project that she helped create, even though she runs a successful, family-owned, online retail and brick-and-mortar business in Southport.
With her experience as a teacher at L&L Montessori, Cowan always wanted to help build better citizens. That’s what drew her to become a volunteer with the SE Brunswick Civitan Club, which has a strong focus on children, evidenced in the Civitan Apple Project. This collaborative endeavor gets local business leaders involved in the school system by raising money for iPads for the Exceptional Children classrooms so that students can interact with their teachers and other students in the best way possible. Cowan is beyond proud of the impact that the Civitan Apple Project is having on the community.
“I wouldn’t be where I am today without the people who helped me on my journey, and I am truly blessed to be able to help others in the same way,” she says. “It fills my heart to know that I can help children with developmental needs. I encourage everyone to find a cause that speaks to them and experience the feeling of giving.” That commitment to future generations of Brunswick County is why she is a Future 10.
The iPad project is just one of the many ways Cowan helps to enhance the community. Her newest venture, GITC (Guitars in the Classroom), trains teachers to teach through the power of song, and she hopes to have the program launched in Brunswick County before the end of the 2016–17 school year.
“I want to be an example of living a positive and meaningful life,” Cowan says. “A big part of that is doing meaningful work.”
Leader: Haylie Long
Title/Company: Community Outreach Coordinator, Lower Cape Fear Hospice
“Volunteers are ambassadors, and for Lower Cape Fear Hospice, they are the backbone,” Haylie Long says. She knows all about the amazing things volunteers do because she recruits, trains and manages the hundreds of volunteers at the nonprofit Lower Cape Fear Hospice. Whether the organization needs someone to offer companionship or respite or to help patients check off items on their bucket list, Long is the person who can be counted on to find the right volunteer for the job.
A native of Brunswick County, she graduated from Coastal Carolina University and planned to make a career in media and communications. But a conversation with a fellow church member, an employee of Lower Cape Fear Hospice, charted a new course. At first Long wasn’t receptive to the idea of working for hospice, assuming it was “depressing and not for me,” but she did some homework and changed her mind.
“[Lower Cape Fear Hospice] takes a more holistic approach to the end of life, looking at all the needs of a patient, not just their medications,” she says. “I saw how they help and change lives, so I wanted to be a part of what they were doing for our area.”
Since 2014 Long has been the public face of Lower Cape Fear Hospice and has helped increase awareness on important topics like advance-care planning and hospice care, while expanding the volunteer programs.
Her tireless efforts to make people feel comfortable and valued don’t just stop at the office. She finds even more ways to better the community by teaching free sign language and dance groups at her church. For fun, when there’s time, she plays bass guitar and sings background vocals for the local band Jaded Mayberry.
For her inclusion in this year’s Future 10, she says she is honored and humbled to have been chosen. “I hope that I continue to push forward with bettering our community,” she says.
Leader: Stacey McCumbee
Title/Company: Director of Community Relations, Arbor Landing at Ocean Isle
Before being named director of community relations in 2015, Stacey McCumbee played an essential role in opening the retirement living community as the business office manager. She created the accounts receivable and payable operations, established human resources practices and set up customer service expectations. The positive impacts she made on the Arbor Landing community made her worthy of promotion.
For the last three years McCumbee has successfully managed census growth, marketing and public relations for Arbor Landing, but her commitment to the families, from the moment they inquire about the community, is where she shines. “I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for aging adults,” she says. “Every day is an adventure but also an opportunity to make a difference in someone’s life. Even the smallest gesture is appreciated and nothing gives me more satisfaction than putting a smile on a resident’s face.”
McCumbee’s Future 10 award has her thinking about her ultimate goal in life, which is “to help make this world a happier, better place than it was before me.” A proud native of Brunswick County, she moved to Chapel Hill to attend college at the University of North Carolina, but didn’t plan on returning until, after four years away, she realized there was no place like home. That makes her award even more special. “I’m truly honored and proud to represent the place I’ve always called home,” she says.
When she’s not making residents of Arbor Landing feel comfortable, respected and cared for, McCumbee finds time to give back to the community in other ways. She’s involved with the Shallotte Junior Woman’s Club, Brunswick County Chamber of Commerce and Brunswick Senior Resources. In addition, she served as a judge for several West Brunswick High School scholarship committees, a task in which she “enjoys hearing about the students’ aspirations and lending them encouragement.”
Leader: Jonathan Peele
Title/Company: President, Coastline Insurance Associates of NC, Inc.
Jonathan Peele says he is inspired by two things in Brunswick County: “I love the small-town feel and sense of community. And I love watching the county grow.” Though he grew up in Hickory, N.C., the southeast coast of North Carolina was his second home as he visited his grandparents while growing up. In 2004 he made Brunswick County his permanent home.
Peele has helped contribute to the county’s growth. He started his small business from the ground up and after just five years in business he recently opened a third location of Coastline Insurance Associates in Ocean Isle Beach. For the new office he hired additional staff and promoted many individuals within his organization to encourage loyalty and success.
Though Peele is a busy business owner, his commitment to Brunswick County goes beyond the office. He is a member of the SE Brunswick Civitan Club and is especially proud of the work he’s done with the Civitan Apple Project. “It’s an awesome feeling to watch the children use the iPads and all of the sudden, they find that learning can be fun,” he says. On his idea of helping the community, he says, “I’m a true believer that if you want the community to support you, you must first support the community.”
Giving back runs in Peele’s family. His mother is the executive director of a United Way agency in Hickory. “She’s dedicated her life to helping others that are less fortunate,” he says. “She’s the hardest working person I know and she does it all for others. She’s rarely recognized for her efforts. My mother is my role model.”
Of the Future 10 Award, Peele says, “I’m very humbled by the nomination. I really owe everything to God, my mother, my wife and my awesome staff. My wife has always supported my vision and dreams, and my staff has worked hard to honor my vision and mission statement. They really care about our clients.”
Leader: Melony Rice
Title/Company: Broker/Realtor, Intracoastal Realty
“Living in Brunswick County now for ten years, I have gotten a real sense of what the people in this community do for each other on a daily basis,” Melony Rice says. “We come together during a storm, we inspire each other and we are happy for our fellow neighbors when they succeed.” That’s why she fell in love with Brunswick County, and it’s what motivates her to give back.
Rice is a successful real estate broker for Intracoastal Realty, a mother of two, a wife and a rental property investor, but she still finds the time to remain an active volunteer in the community. She is involved with the Brunswick County Chamber of Commerce, Coastal Vineyard Church and her children’s school, Union Elementary. She also participates in beach cleanups, turtle watches and local festivals and other events. She credits the real estate business that she loves as giving her the flexibility to volunteer, as well as to be present for her family. “Actually, [my children] are my most important job,” she says.
As a real estate broker, Rice isn’t unlike a community ambassador, making a difference in the lives of home buyers by helping them find a place of their own. Whether it’s a first-time homebuyer, a retiree or someone looking for a vacation home, Rice says she loves “showing houses in our beautiful towns and opening the doors to all that Brunswick County as to offer.”
“I believe they can see the love I have for our community,” she says.
Rice’s Future 10 award has her considering how much this community has welcomed her. Originally from Michigan, she and her husband, Rich, and their two boys, Alton and Adler, picked up and moved to Shallotte after Rich received a job offer from Home Depot. They’d never heard of Shallotte, but two weeks later they were here. “We quickly fell in love with all that Brunswick County has to offer, and we knew this was where we were meant to be,” she says.
Leader: Taylor Thompson
Title/Company: Marketing Teacher, West Brunswick High School
When you know deep down that you have always wanted to be a teacher, but in college you decide to focus on business and marketing instead, what do you do after you graduate? Go back to school, of course. At least that’s what Taylor Thompson did.
“Within a year of graduating from North Carolina State University, I was re-enrolled, but this time as a teaching licensure student,” she says. That, she adds, is when her dream career began.
“As a teacher, you are more than just an educator; you are a mentor, a role model and a friend,” she says. “Becoming a teacher has allowed me to impart life lessons that my students will never forget and puts me in a position to influence their decisions, strengths and dreams.”
When the opportunity to move home and teach in Brunswick County presented itself, there was never a doubt in Thompson’s mind that this is what she was supposed to do. In fact, one of the reasons she became a teacher was so she could contribute to her community in a meaningful way. Six years later, not only is she teaching in the county where she grew up, but also she’s working alongside some of the educators that helped her foster her own love of learning. That, she says, “has truly been amazing.”
As with all teachers, much of Thompson’s work is spent after school hours. She is a dance team coast as well as the advisor for DECA, an organization that helps prepare students for marketing-related careers. She says when she sees the fruits of her efforts every day in the success of her students, the time, energy and dedication are all worthwhile.
The Future 10 title is “truly an honor” for Thompson, and she is especially proud to be acknowledged for her hard work as a teacher in Brunswick County. “I have been lucky enough to teach students who have had a real passion for the business and marketing. Hopefully some of these students will return to our community and find themselves among the Future 10 one day!” she says.
Leader: James Lane
Title/Company: Owner, Angelo’s Pizzeria & Bistro
A passion for people, cooking excellent food and creating a pleasing dining experience is what inspired restaurateur and former golf pro James Lane to open Angelo’s in Shallotte.
“When I first moved to Brunswick County in 2003, I wanted to be closer to the beach,” he says. “And then I realized that this was an area that had a lot of potential for growth, both personally and professionally.”
What also inspires Lane is the community experience in Brunswick County. He believes that hospitality and community are two of the most important parts of his restaurant’s success and sees civic involvement as the cornerstone of growth. “Without it, there is no community,” he says. “It is each individual’s responsibility to helps others, not only to see the bigger picture, but also to see themselves as active members of the community.”
Practicing what he preaches, Lane is committed to helping people in Brunswick County succeed. He has hosted charity wine dinners for nonprofits like Brunswick Family Assistance, First Tee of Brunswick County, Brunswick County Community College Foundation, Brunswick Literacy Council and Novant Health Foundation. He donates gift cards throughout the year to schools, churches, hospitals and other nonprofit organizations. He currently serves as a board member for Brunswick Community College Foundation.
As for his future, Lane says he would like to continue to use his business to accomplish two things: “Improve the hospitality industry in the county and reach out to help those who are less fortunate and in need of support.”
For Lane, being nominated for the Future 10 “confirms to me that I am in the right community and am striving to make it a better place.” But, he admits, he can’t do it alone. “The success of my business has been in thanks to the great people with whom I have worked over the years,” he says. “No business can be run by just one person. Our restaurant has run like a family, like a community, and my success is a product of the hard work and dedication my staff.”
Leader: Charlie Butcher
Title/Company: Branch Manager, Bug-N-A-Rug
You may think that there is nothing exciting about the life of an exterminator, but Charlie Butcher begs to differ. “I love the job I do because of the interaction with others in the community,” he says. And that’s not just customers, but other business owners as well.
For Butcher, community and business go hand in hand, and that’s why he is so passionate about community involvement. “When businesses in the community support each other, and help each other grow, we’re strengthening and growing Brunswick County,” he says.
In helping build that sense of community, Butcher does his part by participating in several civic and networking groups, including Brunswick County Chamber of Commerce, Coastal Connections, Rotary Club of Shallotte, Lions Club and Elks Lodge. He volunteers as a chamber ambassador, a liaison between the chamber of commerce and its members, to welcome new businesses to the area. “As I go to the different meetings and events, I always see a lot of the same people,” he says. “We give each other referrals, helping our own individual businesses, but at the same time, helping everybody else’s business. That’s what community is.”
Hard work, ability and drive. These words are synonymous with all of the Future 10, and they’re no different for Butcher, who began his career with Bug-N-A-Rug in 2010 as a registered technician. Now he is branch manager, overseeing a staff of 10.
At the wise age of 39, Butcher sees the philosophical differences in his career from young adulthood to now. “When you’re younger, working is all about making money,” he says. “Now, it’s about doing your job to the best of your ability, keeping customers and employees happy and, ultimately, taking care of your family.”
And at the end of the day, family is what Butcher is most proud of. He has a 21-year-old stepson and a 22-year-old stepdaughter that he’s helped raise since they were children. “They are my kids, and I’m really proud that I was able to be there for them,” he says.