People of Etowah

December 29, 2017 chris
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Name: Heather Brothers New
Where were you born and raised?
What is your occupation?
“President, The Chamber of Gadsden and Etowah County.”
What made you decide to work in your field?
“My husband and I were spending a weekend at the lake when I first read about the president’s position opening at the Chamber in 2011. I read the article to Blake and he immediately told me that I was born to “do that job.” He insisted I apply, even though I was concerned that I didn’t have direct chamber experience. Fortunately, my work experience in managing non-profits, strategic planning and fiscal recovery were enough to earn me the chance to fill the role. It has been incredibly fulfilling and there seems to be a new and different challenge every year, which keeps it exciting.”
Tell us about your family and pets.
“My husband Blake and I have been married for eight years; together we have three children: Quintan is 22 and a senior at Jacksonville State University, Savannah is 20 and a sophomore at UAB and Ashby is 17 and a junior at Gadsden City High School. No pets; we’re not home enough.”
Describe an average day in your life.
“Typically I wake up around 5 a.m., and if the weather and sunshine cooperate, I go for a two to three mile run. I’m at the office or headed to an appointment by 8 a.m. My day consists of meetings, helping the staff with any questions, meeting with members, occasional tours of programs or industry and a variety of other activities that ultimately results in making connections between needs and resources that relate to workforce development and business success. I’m grateful to work with an amazing team that accomplishes so much with so little, cares so deeply about our community and makes our work life fun. It is awesome to wake up each morning eager to go to work. At least two to three nights each week there is a fundraiser, meeting or dinner to attend. If not, Blake and I make dinner and sit on our back porch if the weather is nice. We are usually in bed by 9 p.m. Our friends call us the 6 o’clock news because we are rarely capable of staying up late.”
What school or schools have you attended?
“West End, Gadsden State Community College and Jacksonville State University. I’ve also completed the Institute for Organization Management at University of Georgia in Athens, as well as Marketing College at University of North Georgia and I’m working on completing the Economic Development Association of Alabama’s Leadership Institute through Auburn University. I’m looking forward to teaching a few courses of the Community Development Institute in 2018 through the University of Alabama-Gadsden Center.”
What do you like to do in your free time?
“Run, spend time with family and friends, cook and listen to podcasts.”
What would you say is your greatest accomplishment?
“My children, if that can be considered an accomplishment. I’m so blessed to have three completely different, exquisite and beautiful lives to care for, watch grow and celebrate their achievements. They’re the greatest source of joy and worry at the same time. I’m blessed beyond imagination that God would allow me to share their lives. Even though Quintan is now 22, I can remember the first time I held him in my arms like it was yesterday, and the fear was overwhelming. I know I’ve made a lot of mistakes over the years and I’m thankful for their grace and mercy. I hope I’ve been a good provider, caregiver and counselor and that they know, no matter what, they can always depend on me.”
Name the one person that has been the most influential in your life. Why?
“My husband, Blake. There are countless opportunities I would have missed were he not there to push me, cheer me on, comfort me and lift me up. I was not the person I am now before I met him. He has blind confidence in me and that propels me to try harder, work smarter and go further than I ever would on my own.”
To what do you credit your success?
“Simply the grace of God. There have been so many times in my life that it has felt almost miraculous that I’ve landed among supportive and passionate people that want to see others do well. I have the most courageous, inspired, driven and visionary co-workers and friends in this community and they all care about our economic future and quality of life. God has not only always provided, He has given me more than I could have ever known to dream for in my family and friends.”
Are you involved in any service organizations?
“Chamber of Commerce Association of Alabama Board of Directors, Chairperson; Business Council of Alabama, Board Member; Alabama Department of Public Health Office of Women’s Health, Board Member; Young Leaders Society of Etowah County, Chair and founding member; Gadsden City Career Technical Advisory Council, Chair; Gadsden Public Library Foundation, Board Member; Gadsden State Alumni Association, Board Member; Etowah County Career Technical Advisory Council, Board Member; and Worlds of Work East AlabamaWorks Committee, Member.”
What is your favorite thing about this community?
“This is a community of givers and dreamers. There are such inspiring philanthropic people that give their time, resources and money to advance our community and to help others. We have a world of opportunity all around us, and the untapped potential is exciting. I’m grateful to get to be a part of the community that we will leave to our children and grandchildren.”
What would you like to see change in the community?
“There’s an old African proverb that says “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” I believe this is true – teamwork is key to making great things happen. In every sector, we have an opportunity to come together – education and workforce development, community planning, mental health and addiction treatment, state and federal advocacy and commercial and industrial development. We have immense untapped potential in Etowah County, and a great opportunity to pull together all of the human and capital resources to go far, together. I’d love to see a comprehensive master plan developed for the entire county that includes municipalities’ goals and visions, especially focusing on the Coosa River and diversifying our industry to tap into the technical sector of areas like Huntsville as we have done with tiered suppliers in automotive. We have great models of cities to consider when visioning our future and natural resources to guide us in our aesthetics. I would love to see more collaborative efforts to bring continuous tourism to our area, like the new sports complex. Lodgings and retail sales taxes paid by visitors are the greatest sources of revenue and a tax savings to our residents. But the end goal in all of this is to eliminate poverty and to lift up those individuals and families to a place where they are equipped and strong enough to stand on their own. When we have more opportunities for education and employment, more access to mental health care, more investment coming back into our community and more unity among all of our leaders, we will begin to heal the seeds of poverty, addiction, crime and hopelessness.”
What are three words that describe you?
“Strategic, determined and futuristic.”
What is something surprising that many do not know about you?
“Not many people know that the path to where I am now was not easy or straight. I’m a product of government assistance and a caring community that provided a hand up out of poverty.”
What is your favorite quote?
“Difficult takes a day, impossible takes a week.” – Jay-Z.
What is on your bucket list?
“I want to ride the ice slide in Quebec and visit the Chateau Frontenac.”
What is your hidden talent?
“I enjoy painting and drawing, and I also write poetry.”
If a movie were made about your life, who would you want to play you?
“Robin Wilson.”
What advice would you give yourself as a child?
“Do not worry about the judgement of others. Do not allow anyone to make you feel you are less than. Be fearless in standing up for yourself. Be bold to those who may try to hurt you. Be unapologetic for your ambition. Be honest and fair, even to those who don’t reciprocate. Be entirely and wonderfully you.”
If you would like to nominate someone for the People of Etowah column, email or call 256-547-1049.