Maximum Impact

Charlotte is increasingly shaped by newcomers who step in and instantly make indelible marks on the city. Look for these six people to step up in the coming months and years

Julie Rose

What: Reporter, WFAE
From: Salt Lake City
When: January 2008

When Rose, thirty-four, first visited Charlotte, she "was just blown away by the trees," she remembers. "They don't grow this way in Utah." That was during a thirty-six hour stay for her interview at WFAE. For a reporter, she couldn't have come at a better time. She's done national NPR reports on the gas shortage and the banking crisis. She had what she calls "an interesting interview" with Lowe's Motor Speedway owner Bruton Smith. In her year here, she has added a harder edge to WFAE's reporting. But she says it's not always the biggest stories that are her favorites. She cites pieces on Charlotte's military families and foster teens as her most memorable. Because she works in radio, "I can actually let them speak directly to you. The more I can disappear from the story, the more successful I am." Still, she wonders about the future of her new hometown. During the Wachovia meltdown, she says, "it occurred to me that this place that I moved to, a lot of the things I moved for might not be here anymore." She hopes that people who moved here for banking jobs won't head the other way. "If they leave, that would be a really sad thing, because Charlotte would lose a little bit of its soul." —R. T.

Norberto Sanchez

What: Chairman and CEO, Norsan Group
From: Atlanta
When: November 2008

Sanchez, fifty-one, brought some big ideas when he settled into a condo in the Rosewood development at Providence and South Sharon Amity roads. Sanchez, who is originally from Mexico, relocated his multimedia group to Charlotte, and it now includes the Mi Gente ("My People") Spanish-language newspaper and four Spanish-speaking radio stations here. That's only part of the larger Norsan Group, which covers several restaurant concepts, catering, meat processing, and real estate. Revenue in 2008 totaled $110 million, Sanchez says. Sanchez, captivated by Charlotte, has plans to move the entire company here. When he's not doing deals, he can be found having dinner at The Palm at Phillips Place or celebrating Mass at St. Gabriel Catholic Church across the street from his new home. Ask him "Why Charlotte?" and the married father of three daughters gives the same answer you get from a lot of newcomers: "We saw the opportunity. The potential." —Ken Garfield

Mark Allison

What: Dean of Culinary Education, Johnson & Wales University
From: Charleston, by way of Swansae, in South Wales, after growing up in Newcastle-upon-Thyme, England
When: September 2005

Allison thinks Charlotte can be "a new Chicago on the culinary scene." In his gig as head of Johnson & Wales's culinary program, Allison, forty-four, has a chance to help make that happen. And despite the rough economic environment, he's excited about the opportunity. "It's just a matter of time before we have a great culinary scene," he says. "Charlotte will be one of the first places to bounce back, and hopefully with Johnson & Wales leading the way we are going to keep building restaurants and hotels." Allison worked in the industry in his native England and in Wales before Johnson & Wales recruited him stateside. He spent a year at the Charleston campus before moving his wife and three boys here. He likes what he has to work with. "The facility here is tremendous; it's got to be one of the best in the world." He also teaches in the Chef's Choice program, which is open to the public. His next class, focused on diabetic-friendly cooking, is March 21. —R. T.

The Rev. Bob Henderson

What: Senior Minister, Covenant Presbyterian Church
From: Greensboro
When: March 2008

Henderson, forty-seven, is lighting a fire under one of the city's most prominent congregations. Sunday-morning attendance at the East Morehead Street church is up about 150—to 600—since he arrived last year. Henderson, whose wife, Suzanne, teaches religion at Queens University of Charlotte, plans to launch a third Sunday-morning service at 9:30, more informal than the two others at the tradition-rich Dilworth church. He's preaching to the congregation about the importance of hospitality as it welcomes newcomers. His to-do list includes affordable housing in Charlotte and fighting AIDS in Africa. He says his leadership style is "collaborative, intentionally positive and receptive, occasionally directive, and always prayerful." —K. G.

Thomas Ross Sr.

What: President, Davidson College
From: Chapel Hill
When: August 2007

The guy slapping backs at the suddenly standing-room-only Davidson College basketball games can't take credit for recruiting Stephen Curry. But the former head of the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation and N.C. Superior Court judge draws praise from the campus community and alums for his accessibility, chemistry with students, and willingness to confront Davidson's ever-present challenge: upholding the college's traditions while changing with the times. Ross, fifty, is the seventeenth president of the 1,700-student college, and he's spearheading a long-range strategic plan. He's also pledging support for Davidson's much-ballyhooed policy of awarding grants to replace student loans even if the endowment takes a hit in tough times. What does Ross hope other people like about him? That he listens, he says. —K. G.

Jon Boyer

What: President, Bechtler Museum of Modern Art
From: Wilton, Conn.
When: March 2008

As uptown's "cultural campus" edges closer to reality, the dramatically designed Bechtler Museum of Modern Art is emerging as the jewel. Boyer, fifty-five, oversees the museum, which will exhibit Andreas Bechtler's extraordinary collection of twentieth-century art when it opens next year. Center City leaders already count Boyer as an impact player, and he is enjoying his new environment. "This is a town where people know how to work together. That is not the case in a lot of places." And he's undaunted by heading up a new museum that's part of the Wachovia Cultural Campus, even though there no longer is a Wachovia. "This period of jolting transition driven by regional and national economy is a critically important opportunity to reassess what matters most in defining our quality of life emotionally and intellectually," he says. And that's where the Bechtler comes in. —R. T.

Additional Impact

These six players have had an almost immediate effect on their new hometown —R.T.

Jonathan Martin
Executive Director, Charlotte Symphony
May 2008
Martin has the tough task of bringing the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra into the black and making it relevant again. Finances continue to be a struggle, but the orchestra is showing signs of life with creative outreach programs and improved attendance.

DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart
Running backs,
Carolina Panthers
June 2007 and June 2008, respectively
The running back combo known as "Double Trouble" helped propel the Panthers into the playoffs with one of the most productive combined seasons in NFL history. They're both young and, by all accounts, good guys, so hopefully fans will get to enjoy their play for years to come.

Rodney Monroe
Chief, Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department
June 2008
The no-nonsense chief shook off controversy over his college degree and achieved almost instant results by lowering crime. All the more impressive considering crime usually increases during a bad economy.

Kevin Pitts
Publisher, Charlotte Business Journal
December 2008
Pitts takes over at a time when, in many eyes, the CBJ has supplanted the Observer as the top source for local business news (and this when business news is much in demand), but also when print media outlets of all stripes are struggling.

Cynthia Marshall
President, AT&T North Carolina
January 2007
Marshall moved from California to replace the retired Krista Tillman. She splits her time between here and Raleigh, but she has jumped into civic life and has become active in pro-education efforts.