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Emily Bagwell following in mom’s footsteps

Hall Chamber passes leadership torch within the family

POSTED: May 16, 2009 11:36 p.m.

Emily Bagwell, right, will serve as incoming chairman for the Greater Hall County Chamber of Commerce and her mother, Joanne Bagwell, served as previous president for the chamber. They are the first mother and daughter to accomplish this for the Greater Hall County Chamber of Commerce.

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Only once in the 101-year history of the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce has a parent and child served in the organization’s top elected post.

It will happen again this year, and in another first, both are women.

Joanne Bagwell served as president of the chamber in 1988. Later this year, her daughter, Emily Bagwell, will be installed as the board’s chairwoman.

Joanne Bagwell admits that at the time, she didn’t realize how groundbreaking it was to be the first woman in what had been an exclusively male domain.

“I didn’t think about being a female. I just thought I was president,” she said. “When I look back, it was pretty significant.”

Her daughter, who was in college at the time, felt differently.

“I knew it was a big deal that she was the first female president and she went on to be the first president of the Georgia Board of Realtors,” Emily Bagwell said. “I knew that was a monumental event.”

Seeing her mother’s name among a list of people who made an impact on the community has given the incoming chairwoman a greater respect for her future office.

“It very humbling and frightening,” Emily Bagwell said. “When I look around at the people who have headed the
chamber, including my mom, those are big shoes to fill.”

She said the list of previous chamber leaders is awe inspiring.

“When I look back over the past 50 years, those are people that when I was growing up were the shining stars, the movers and shakers that made things happen.”

The other parent-child chamber leaders were Don Carter (1966) and Doug Carter (2001-02).

Joanne Bagwell says she learned from her father, Carlton Carter, to just be “one of the boys.” She traveled to Capitol Hill with an all-male entourage of chamber leaders. The same was true for board meetings, which were predominately male.

She headed the chamber during a period of great expansion and development in Hall County.

Joanne Bagwell grew up in Jasper, Fla., just below the state line near Valdosta. Her father was in the timber business and was a farmer.

She was also a trailblazer in the real estate business and was president of her own company, Northeast Georgia Real Estate, which she eventually sold to Prudential Georgia Realty.

After getting out of real estate, she took on her favorite role: grandmother.

Emily Bagwell said she learned a lot about multitasking from her mother. A partner in the law firm of Whelchel, Dunlap, Jarrard and Walker, she manages her legal case load along with duties as a mother of three children, two younger than 3.

Her father, William A. “Dub” Bagwell, is a partner in the firm. Both of her parents have been active civic leaders in Gainesville and Hall County for many years, so the call to community service comes naturally.

“I can’t say that my parents pushed me to do any particular thing,” Emily said. “I can say that they were always vocal about their expectation that I be involved with something. We’ve been blessed as a family and it’s important to give back to the community.”

From college and law school, she gave thought to moving away from her hometown, but the quality of life called her back.

“I did not intend to come back to Gainesville,” she said. She had opportunities at law firms in Atlanta and in North Carolina, but said no.

“I wanted to have the ability to go in and talk to the senior partner and have him know who I am,” she said. “I also wanted the ability to make a difference in my community.”

Her practice includes corporate work for Northeast Georgia Health System, she also represents the property and casualty insurance companies at the state capitol.

The chamber marked the ceremonial end to its year Friday night with a gala at Lake Lanier Islands Resort. The official change in office takes place July 1, when Bagwell will succeed current chairman R.K. Whitehead.


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