When Bill Russell has been asked what exactly he does as president and chief executive officer of the Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce his answer is simple - he's a builder.
"I don't build buildings or roads, but I build a community," he said. "When you go down the road and see that new school coming out of the ground, you know that you played a small part in that."
Russell enjoys seeing that school or park prosper as well as seeing how a business thrives after receiving help from the chamber to get started or to simply stay alive.
"My role at the Chamber of Commerce isn't a job, it isn't a profession - it's fun," he said.
Russell's days at the chamber aren't like the typical 9-to-5 job. He may start his day at a networking event over coffee at 8 a.m. and finish that same day at 9:30 p.m. after attending a comedy club he's been invited to by a member.
He said that's an added plus for him.
"No day is the same - every day is different," Russell said. "I think that's what I enjoy most about my job."
When he's not working for the Chamber, Russell finds other ways to stay involved in the community.
He serves on the boards for Visit Lake Norman, United Way-Lake Norman, the Hugh Torrance House & Store as well as the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority's Visitors Advisory Committee and the Cannon School Cannon Council.
Russell has also been president of the Lake Norman Kiwanis Club and the Carolinas Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives.
He said he stays involved because he wants to help his community.
"I would like to think that each of us is given talents and gifts from God to use, and I'd like to believe that at the end of my life I'll know that I have used those talents to make my community a better place to live," the Huntersville resident said.
Russell said all that comes from his parents - Bill Sr. and Sarah - who were active in his native Rock Hill, S.C. community and instilled that sense of giving back as he grew up.
The 50-year-old admits that in order to give as much as he does to the community he has had to make important life choices. One of those is being single.
"I suppose if I was trying to raise a family with kids and a wife at home, I probably couldn't put as much time into this job as I do," Russell said. "You do what you want to do, and this is what I like to do."
But Russell didn't always know he wanted to be this involved in his community.
After graduating from Winthrop University with a degree in business administration, Russell wasn't sure what he wanted to do. He decided to go into sales.
Russell worked in marketing for Harper Brothers - a now defunct Greenville, S.C. office furniture and supply company - for more than 12 years. Although he enjoyed his job, Russell discovered his current line of work when he got involved with the Jaycees, the United States Junior Chamber civic group.
After starting work with the group in the Greenville area, Russell was elected as state and eventually national president of the organization.
"Here I was in my mid-30s and I was the president of the largest young-people's organization in the country," he said. "I traveled to 48 states and seven countries and had the chance to meet President (Ronald) Reagan and Newt Gingrich."
At the end of his one-year term as national president of the Jaycees, Russell decided he wanted to get into a nonprofit role.
"I really enjoyed making my community a better place to work and live," he said. "It was that sense of building - that sense of making things better - that really appealed to me."
Russell took a job at a small chamber of commerce near Charleston, S.C. He worked at the Tri County Regional Chamber of Commerce for three years until his current position came available in 1996.
After 14 years on the job, Russell has overseen tremendous growth to the Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce, which boasts nearly 1,100 business members from across the region and as far away as West Virginia's ski slopes.
The chamber aims to promote its members, to put on programs such as networking events and seminars and to serve its members by advocating local, state and national government on topics business owners care about, ranging from health care to road improvements.
After having one of its busiest years in 2009, Russell said the chamber will continue to work on getting the area out of the economic recession. One way they're aiming to do so is through their "Buy Local" campaign, which encourages residents to buy goods and services from local businesses.
Russell said this would benefit everyone in the community.
"Chances are the job you may save by buying local could be your own," he said.