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The Hearts Behind the Helm: The Past and Future Directors of the North Brunswick Chamber of Commerce

Although leadership at the North Brunswick Chamber of Commerce has changed, one thing remains the same — the heart behind the helm. As of mid-March, the chamber’s Executive Director Terry Grillo turned in her suits for scrubs, now working as the Hospital Manager for Capeside Animal Hospital in Leland.

Grillo came to the chamber from a long career in sales and marketing in the textile industry. Originally from New York, she was relocated to Greensboro in 1975 when her company transferred her to corporate headquarters. She and her family enjoyed the South but longed to live full-time at their favorite vacation spot in Oak Island.

“We decided that when my husband retired we would move to the coast,” says Grillo. “In order for me to continue my career in sales and marketing, all I needed was access to an airport.” In 2006 Terry and her husband, Frank purchased a home in the Leland community of Westport, where they reside today.

With the mid-2000s came a challenging economy and the textile industry was no exception to the turmoil. Grillo became unemployed in 2008 but made light of her situation. She began volunteering for the chamber, working several hours each week. Less than one year later, the chamber’s then Executive Director Rhonda Norris had to leave the area. “I knew quickly that my sales and marketing management experience would lend itself to helping me thrive in that job,” explains Grillo. And in March 2009, she was hired as the chamber’s new Executive Director.

“My favorite thing about my time as Executive Director was meeting all of the people in the community,” says Grillo. “With all of the traveling that I had to do with my previous career, I never got to do that. It’s just an awesome part of the job.”

Grillo was well known for her ability to connect with the people of Brunswick County and to attract new members to the chamber, but she was also recognized for her heart.

“I really enjoyed participating in events that benefited the community,” she says. “One of my favorite memories and most proud accomplishments is the creation of a Veteran’s Day event. There were no local events scheduled to commemorate the holiday, so we created one.” The now annual event honors both veterans in attendance and those deceased with a breakfast ceremony featuring North Brunswick High School’s ROTC and band.

In addition to her passion for the people of her community, Grillo’s strong business background was a great asset to the chamber. She was instrumental in launching the chamber’s new website, www.nbchamberofcommerce.com, in mid-2009, offering a fresh look and easy-to-navigate content.

Perhaps the most challenging aspect of her tenure as Executive Director was the economy in which she was operating. But Grillo pulled the chamber through strong, maintaining its membership with no decline. In just one year, from March 2009 to her departure in March 2010, Grillo navigated the chamber through a difficult economy, provided it with a fresh face online, created an event to commemorate our local heroes and made friends with many in her community.

Grillo is now sharing her business savvy with Capeside Animal Hospital, as she takes on the task of hospital management. “It was an interesting opportunity for me,” says Grillo. “I got to know Dr. Sheila Hanby during her time as Treasurer and on the board for the chamber, and she felt that I’d be a good match for her Capeside team. They’re building a new facility next year, so it was a nice challenge to be involved with something from the ground up.”

Now filling Grillo’s shoes at the chamber is another strong and savvy businesswoman, Dana Fisher. Grillo is clearly confident in Fisher.

“I think she will do a wonderful job in bringing the chamber to the next level,” says Grillo. “She brings a lot of expertise in fund raising and event planning from her involvement in New Hanover County events, which will be a great asset to the chamber. Not to mention she’s very knowledgeable of the community and the area.”

And she’s right. Fisher knows North Brunswick. She moved from New Bern to Leland in 1971 and then to Wilmington in 1977. Although she’s currently a New Hanover County resident, Fisher’s spirit has resided across the bridge in Brunswick County for nearly 40 years. “I would love to eventually move back to Leland,” says Fisher. Until then, she will work to enhance the community that she still likes to call home.

Formerly a mortgage broker, Fisher knows the drill of networking, business building and cold calling. “So, that part of the job is second nature,” says Fisher. “I’m definitely not scared to call on people!”

And her 30 years of volunteer experience and past presidency of the N.C. Azalea Festival will help her fund raising capability significantly. “As a President of the Azalea Festival, you have 80 committees reporting to you at one time,” explains Fisher. “I truly felt that it was that management experience that would help me thrive in this position.”

During Fisher’s term as Secretary for the North Brunswick Chamber, she got to know Grillo. And, as a board member, she was one of the first to know of the upcoming vacancy. “When the Executive Director opportunity came about, I jumped on it,” says Fisher. “I love the people, I love the county, and I felt that I could do the job well. Now, it’s almost like I’m back home.”

“Everyone has their strong points,” says Fisher. “Rhonda Norris was good at meeting people, she was the epitome of a true Southern belle. Terry was great at all of it; very organized and very professional. Now I’m trying to find my own way and my own style. Each person has different ways of accomplishing the same thing. I have big shoes to fill on all accounts.”

Fisher, like Grillo, is most enthusiastic about meeting more of the North Brunswick community. And helping them while she’s at it.

Fisher is well known in New Hanover County for her supportive role in the nonprofit sector. Between dancing and lip syncing for The Carousel Center, a nonprofit organization for victims of child abuse, to her position as a Guardian ad Litem for the NC 5th Judicial District, Fisher is an advocate for children. “Children and pets have my heart,” says Fisher. “If there is a way I can help them, I will find it.”

Whether it’s nonprofit or for-profit, Fisher is committed to continuing the growth of Northern Brunswick County. “My personal side wants to identify organizations like this in Brunswick County and increase public awareness of them,” explains Fisher. “And my business side is dedicated to supporting the professional development of our county. I have to get familiar with the business needs first and get that under my hat. Then I’ll tackle bringing more nonprofit services to light so that our community can benefit from both.”

From ribbon cuttings to cutting a rug for children, event planning to child protection, Fisher keeps herself busy. “It’s a full day,” says Fisher with a laugh. “But, so far, so good.”

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