Story By Hilary Brady
Photography By Keith Ketchum and Suzy King

As one of the fastest-growing counties in the nation, Brunswick County sees newcomers every day. Here we give you an opportunity to meet six new high-profile residents of Brunswick County, to learn how they got here and how they plan to make a difference in Brunswick County.

Kelly Mathews: Programs & Events Director, Brunswick County Chamber of Commerce
As the new Programs and Events Director for the Brunswick County Chamber of Commerce, Kelly Mathews’ career now matches her personality: creative, fun and complete.

Growing up as a small-town girl, Mathews’ inner aspiration was contradictory to her upbringing — she developed a desire to do things in a big way. She liked to plan elaborate parties for all of life’s events: graduations, bachelorette partie s, baby showers and any other milestone that warranted celebration.

Upon graduation from hig h school in 1997, Mathews moved to Greensboro to attend the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and pursue a degree in Dance, an activity that she had been passionate about since the age of three. But after concluding that a dance degree would not place her where she wanted to be in the professional world, Mathews changed majors multiple times until she decided to take time off from school. “I needed to figure out what I wanted to do with my life,” says Mathews.

After a year away from school working at a local bank, Mathews returned to UNC-G to meet with a career counselor, who quickly identified a degree that was of interest — a bachelor’s degree in Recreation, Parks and Tourism. Mathews was on board.

Mathews re-enrolled in school, finally pursuing a degree that she felt successfully satisfied her career desires. In 2003, in the midst of carrying a full load of classes, the event planner extraordinaire planned a wedding for herself and her now-husband, Scott.

Just a year later, the newlyweds moved to Little River, S.C., so that Scott could pursue a career in real estate. Mathews completed her final year of college commuting from Little River to Greensboro, graduating in 2005 with a bachelor’s degree in Recreation, Parks and Tourism with a concentration in Travel, Tourism and Commercial Recreation.

Mathews secured an internship at the North Myrtle Beach Chamber of Commerce working under Cathy Altman, who was then serving as the Events Director for the chamber.

“After my internship at the chamber, I bounced around a lot,” explains Mathews. “But, every job I had was amazing.”

Phillips Seafood in Myrtle Beach, Seasons at Prince Creek in Murrells Inlet and Anderson Brothers Bank in Myrtle Beach were each blessed with Mathews’ talent. But, after what seemed like a magical turn of events, Mathews was reunited with Cathy Altman, now the President/CEO of the Brunswick Chamber of Commerce, and reintroduced to the Chamber of Commerce world.

“I was co-chairing the annual St. Patty’s Day Parade event for the North Strand Optimist Club,” explains Mathews, “and I ran into Cathy in the parking lot while I was wrapping up parade registration. She later approached me with an opportunity to work with her again at the Brunswick County Chamber of Commerce. I knew that it was meant to be. I had to take the job.”

On April 6, 2010, Mathews got back to the world that she loves: event planning with the chamber. “My first day was the Annual Dinner, a huge event for the chamber, so it was a big and long day,” says Mathews. “I loved it though. And, at that moment, I knew I made the right decision. I’m doing what I love.”

Melissa Everitt: Volleyball Coach, Brunswick Community College
Since the age of 13, Melissa Everitt has been bumping and blocking, setting and spiking. Now the new volleyball coach at Brunswick Community College is showing girls how to succeed on and off the court.

Everitt’s small hometown in Nebraska didn’t limit her involvement in sports. “Our community was centered around ball,” says Everitt. The sports-friendly town of Trenton spurred a passion in Everitt that would carry through her entire career.

Everitt played volleyball and basketball at Mid-Plains Community College and ran Track and Field at the University of Nebraska at Kearney, before securing a coaching position in Savannah, Georgia.

“I was ready to warm up,” says Everitt. “And Savannah’s sun promised better weather than what I was used to in Nebraska.”

Although it was a short stint teaching special education, coaching volleyball and basketball at one of Savannah’s largest high schools, Everitt had just enough time to earn the Savannah Coastal Empire Area Coach of the Year award.

With short notice for an excellent opportunity, Everitt packed her bags and headed to Missouri.

“I was offered a position at the University of Missouri that would allow me to earn my master’s degree in Educational Leadership, while also getting some amazing experience in college athletics,” says Everitt.

Everitt spent nearly four years at the flagship university, earning her master’s degree while serving as the Director of Operations for the volleyball program, and working in External Operations with the administration team.

“It was here that my career really began,” explains Everitt. “I was heavily involved in recruiting, running camps for 3,000 kids, budgeting, marketing, strategic planning, you name it. I learned how to run a program both from the sports end and administration end.”

In 2005 Everitt was offered another opportunity she couldn’t resist — the chance to return to the coast. UNC-Wilmington hired her as the Assistant Athletic Director for Development, a job that she held for one year before she felt called back to coaching.

Everitt climbed on board at Cape Fear Academy in 2006 as its Capital Campaign Director and Head Volleyball Coach until 2009, when her contract expired and her thirst returned for college athletics.

Everitt moved to Maine to join Learfield Sports, a collegiate sports marketing company, managing advertising and promotions for the University of Maine. “I wanted to get back into college athletics,” explains Everitt. “But they didn’t have volleyball here. It was like cutting off my right arm.”

And so her stay in Maine was short. In May 2010 Everitt settled back in the Carolinas as she accepted the positions of Head Volleyball Coach and Development Officer (BCC Foundation) for Brunswick Community College.

Although it may seem that her path to today’s position has been long, it’s always been intentional.

“Every move that I have made has prepared me for where I am today,” says Everitt.

Her first-hand experience playing for a community college combined with her team management background has created quite the coach. Everitt knows what it takes to run a successful team.

“I am so happy to be here,” says Everitt. “This program is going to be very rewarding for me, and the Brunswick County community.”

 

Carol Phelps: Executive Director, Brunswick Family Assistance
As a minister’s daughter, Carol Phelps was raised to help others. And now, as the new Executive Director of Brunswick Family Assistance, Phelps is making her father, who passed away in 1987, proud by demonstrating the unwavering compassion that he unknowingly instilled in her heart.

“When I was growing up, we lived in a poverty-stricken West Virginia town, a coal camp,” says Phelps. “My earliest memories are of my family helping people. On many occasions, I saw my father helping others. It’s the way he taught us to live ; when you are able to help, you extend yourself and do that. Helping each other, helping neighbors, it’s the family way of life. That vein still runs very strongly throughout my family.”

Her family, a tight-knit unit of nine siblings, has remained the center of her life to this day.

“When my brothers left West Virginia to seek work in areas other than coal mining, we all followed,” says Phelps. One brother moved to Wilmington and another to Supply, and her parents settling in Bolivia. In 2002 Phelps joined the migration and moved to Boiling Springs Lakes and then to Supply in 2009.

Phelps is happily married t o Gene, a retired chef now spreading smiles in Southport as a Walmart greeter. The two have three adult children, seven grandchildren, a rescue poodle and a parakeet named P. Fridley Birdfeather.

After years as a schoolteacher and administrative assistant for Mt. Pisgah Baptist Church in Supply, on April 5, 2010, Phelps joined Brunswick Family Assistance as its new Executive Director. It is a position that allows Phelps to heal from her past and help build a future for others.

Prior to settling in coastal Carolina, Phelps lived in Asheboro. “I moved to Asheboro to be near another one of my siblings,” says Phelps. “And to heal from 16 years of life as a battered woman.” It was there that Phelps’ upbringing truly began to shine through; she displayed a desire to help others even in the midst of her own trials, just like her father. “I found a local battered women’s shelter, asked to volunteer there, and they hired me on the spot,” says Phelps. “I worked there until I remarried in 2002 and ran away to the beach with my husband.”

When she noticed the opening at Brunswick Family Assistance, Phelps knew it was for her. “I am living testament that life can go on and it can get better,” says Phelps. “Working in nonprofit is my true calling.”

With a bachelor’s and a master’s degree, professional experience and a personal connection, Phelps is the perfect fit for her new role.

“It really appeals to me to work for an agency where I am part of a team that is healing so many needy people in Brunswick County,” says Phelps. “I look forward to learning more about Brunswick County and its residents and being able to share the knowledge and background that I bring to make the organization better. It’s already great. I just want to try to make it better.”

 

Arthur Jeffords: General Manager, Carolina National Golf Club
Although Arthur Jeffords was born and raised in Savannah, Georgia, a love for the coastal Carolinas was in his blood long before birth. Family roots drew Jeffords, now a renowned golf management professional, back to Brunswick County to finish up a long and successful career.

Jeffords’ grandparents lived in Wilmington, and his mother and father met at Fort Fisher. When his father returned from serving in World War II, the couple moved to Savannah, where Arthur was born.

Jeffords grew up loving golf, a love that sent him straight through college at Middle Tennessee State on a scholarship. After college, he landed a job as Assistant Golf Professional at Sea Pines in Hilton Head, S.C.

Having vacationed in Hilton Head during his childhood, Jeffords knew and loved the area. “So when Wallace Palmer [golf pro in charge of the Sea Pines courses since their development] gave me an opportunity to work for him, I jumped on it.”

Jeffords worked for Palmer’s development from 1973 until 1984, when Sea Pines was sold. From 1979 to 1984, Jeffords managed the four Sea Pines courses, while also serving as Head Professional at Harbour Town Golf Links.

“My time with Harbour Town was certainly a high point of my career,” says Jeffords. “The course is the site of the PGA Heritage Golf Classic. It was a pretty amazing experience to be involved, on that level, in a major PGA Tour event.”

Following the sale of Sea Pines, Jeffords moved to Murrell’s Inlet to serve as the General Manager for Golf and Residential Development for Wachesaw Plantation. The first private golf and residential community in the area, the course was ranked #1 by Golf Digest, another feather in the cap of Carolina National’s celebrated golf manager.

The 1990s brought the completion of the Wachesaw Plantation project and a move back to Hilton Head, where Jeffords became General Manager and investor of Island West Golf Club, served as the president of the area’s golf course’s Owner’s Association, and participated as a board member of the National Golf Course Owner’s Association.

One more move was in store for the decade, this time out of state. In 1998, Jeffords formed Lighthouse Golf Group in Atlanta, maintaining management and consulting contracts for golf clubs throughout the Southeast.

“One of my indirect clients through a large financial firm client was Traditional Golf Properties out of Williamsburg, Virginia,” says Jeffords. “When Traditional bought Carolina National Golf Club in December, one thing led to another and I decided to finish my career doing what I loved best. So I came back to the Carolinas.”

“With my mother’s family being from Wilmington, we vacationed in the area a lot as I was growing up,” says Jeffords. “Wilmington is very familiar to me. But Brunswick County has something special.”

Jeffords says that Brunswick County reminds him of the Murrell’s Inlet area before it hit its boom in the mid-80s.

“You can tell that Brunswick is on the verge of a boom,” says Jeffords. “That was attractive to me.”

Jeffords stays busy at Carolina National as he builds the brand.

“Amazing new team members are in place and a grand reopening is in the plans,” says Jeffords. “We’re getting this club back to the condition that the members deserve and I’m living in a place that I love. What a great way to end a career.”

 

Ashlyn Burke: Assistant Athletic Director and Women’s Basketball Coach, Brunswick Community College
Ashlyn Burke, a self-proclaimed childhood “gym rat,” has been surrounded by basketball since birth. The new Assistant Athletic Director and Women’s Basketball Coach at Brunswick Community College (BCC) comes from a family that eats, sleeps and breathes ball.

Like many, the Murfreesboro, N.C., native was drawn to UNC-Wilmington for college thanks to the attraction of the sandy coastline. In 2005 the beach-loving Burke graduated with a degree in Communications, with her sights set on a career in sports.

“My brother played basketball and I played basketball, volleyball and softball,” says Burke.

But it didn’t stop there. Her family members have turned a childhood love for sports into a career.

“My dad was the head men’s basketball coach for Chowan University for 23 years,” says Burke. “And my brother recently took the top assistant coach job for The Citadel’s basketball team. When you love basketball as much as my family does, you are naturally inspired to take it to the next level.”

Burke worked in UNC-W’s sports marketing department for two years, managing community outreach initiatives, working with booster members, game-day operations and sports marketing, while also teaching special education and coaching girl’s basketball at Trask Middle School.

In 2008 Burke was recruited by BCC as the Programs Director, and in 2009 she took on the role as Women’s Basketball Coach. In April 2010, she added the title of Assistant Athletic Director.

Now as a second-season coach at BCC and in her first year as Assistant Athletic Director, Burke is beyond busy.

“My day is booked from 8 am to 8 pm and sometimes until 2 am during season,” says Burke. “Between games, being available to my student athletes and trying to get a booster club up and running, it’s a full load.”

But Burke’s hectic schedule does not overwhelm, instead it magnifies the spirit of a coach that cares deeply about her player’s achievements.

“I hope that my girls see me as a coach who cares about their success in both academics and athletics,” says Burke. “I take my girls on as my kids; it’s my responsibility to help them become successful, to go on to the next level.”

In addition to guiding her girls on and off the field, one of Burke’s primary responsibilities is to build the BCC booster club.

“I am really looking forward to bringing more community involvement into our center and our program,” says Burke. “We need new people to join our booster club in order to help women’s athletics succeed, to make a difference in Brunswick County.”

Burke’s responsibilities may seem heavy. But she couldn’t be happier.

“I’m in the highlight of my career right now,” says Burke. “Over the past year I have really gained new perspective in my life. I had to do a lot of work to get to this point, and that makes me who I am today. Now, I’m here, and I want to make a difference.”

 

Robbie Allen: Athletic Director and Baseball Coach, Brunswick Community College
It’s only natural that Brunswick Community College’s new Athletic Director and Baseball Coach has ball in his blood. The high school football, basketball and baseball star smoothly transitioned into college sports at Clemson, and then on to achieve every little boy’s dream: professional baseball.

In 1980 Robbie Allen was drafted straight from his hometown of Tabor City, N.C. to Los Angeles, Calif., to play for the LA Dodgers. After nine years playing professional baseball for popular teams like the Brewers, Astros and Angels, Allen settled back in North Carolina to bring team life to teaching.

Allen worked as the Athletic Director for Waccamaw Academy, a small private school near Tabor City, for 18 years. In addition to his role as AD, Allen also coached baseball, soccer, and men’s and women’s basketball at Waccamaw, receiving Coach of the Year honors in baseball, women’s basketball and soccer.

In August of 2008, Brunswick Community College (BCC) was successful is securing this all-star sportsman and director. After two years of building and coaching the BCC baseball program, the now Shallotte resident once again added Athletic Director to his responsibilities in December 2009.

Under Allen’s leadership, the BCC baseball team has progressed from a 15 (win) – 37 (loss) season at its inception two years ago to a 34 (win) – 16 (loss) record and ranking 8th in the nation during the 2009-2010 season, earning Allen Coach of the Year recognition for Region 10 baseball.

“Watching my players succeed is most certainly my career high point,” says Allen. “That’s the ultimate deal right there.”

But, for Allen, it’s not just about the ballgame.

“It makes a big difference when you connect with them; when they really understand what you’re trying to get across,” says Allen. “And that’s not just on the athletic field. My hope is that my players learn life skills through my coaching; in athletics, you teach a lot about life because there’s so much failure in life, as well as athletics. I hope they’ll always feel that I taught them how to handle worldly challenges, that I always treated them fair, and, most importantly, helped them to pursue their education through baseball.“

Allen reaps great emotional reward from the educational success of his players.

“I still keep in touch with my players that go on to finish school at a four-year college,” says Allen. “I recently got an email from one of my guys, saying that he was thankful for the opportunity to play and finish his education. When they achieve their goals, get their degrees and become successful in life … those are the big moments.”

For someone that cares so intensely about the success of his players, it comes as no surprise that Allen is also passionate about developing an athletic program that best supports these students.

BCC has grown from a men’s basketball-only athletic program to housing a girl’s basketball team, baseball team, championship volleyball team and soon-to-be launched men’s and women’s golf teams.

“We’re trying to grow our sports program while also giving young people an opportunity to grow their education through athletics,” says Allen. “But that’s not possible without a thriving booster club. With the community’s support, which is so vital to the program, this is going to become something that everyone can be proud of. And that’s what we’re shooting for.”