Cameron Fisher recipient of Varnell Award
by Staff Reports
Jan 30, 2013 | 785 views | 0 0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Robert W. Varnell Leadership award recipient Cameron Fisher, left, poses with Nancy Casson, who presented the award Tuesday evening during the 87th Annual Meeting of the Chamber in the Professional Development Center of Life Care Centers of America.
Robert W. Varnell Leadership award recipient Cameron Fisher, left, poses with Nancy Casson, who presented the award Tuesday evening during the 87th Annual Meeting of the Chamber in the Professional Development Center of Life Care Centers of America.
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As the 2013 Robert W. Varnell Jr. Leadership recipient stood onstage Tuesday evening in front of hundreds of Chamber of Commerce members, Cameron Fisher said he wondered beforehand how anyone could compete with the previous winners.

“If you look at the list, these people are people who are very outstanding members of the community and continue to be outstanding members of the community,” he said.

But, 2010 award-winner Nancy Casson said in her nomination speech during the 87th Annual Meeting of the Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce, “The Varnell Award seems to have been designed with Cameron Fisher in mind.”

Fisher, coordinator of communications and Internet ministries for the Church of God International Offices, received the Robert W. Varnell Jr. Leadership Award during presentations at Life Care Centers of America Professional Development Center.

Named for the late Robert W. Varnell Jr., the award recognizes outstanding community leadership and is one of the top honors presented annually by the Chamber of Commerce.

“Marian Wright Edelman said, ‘Service is what life is all about,’” shared Nancy Casson, co-owner of The Red Ribbon and nominator of this year’s winner.

“This statement describes Cameron’s life of service to Cleveland and Bradley County. He is a true example of the Robert W. Varnell Leadership Award.”

“I never want to quit doing what I’m doing,” Fisher said. “It brings a lot of joy to me and I’m lucky to be in a job that allows me to do that and I really try to devote as much as I can to the community.”

Fisher has played an active leadership role in the community almost since he put down his roots in Cleveland in 1976. Born in Fresno, Calif., to Robert and Mary Fisher, who were involved in ministry, he lived as a young boy in Hawaii and then Maryland before moving to Cleveland. He is a graduate of Cleveland High School, Lee University and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

Fisher serves in the Division of Communication for the Church of God International Offices. He has worked in the communications profession since college days, beginning first as a student editing the university’s alumni magazine and later as public information director for the university. He was employed in his current position because of his exceptional journalistic ability, a skill he evidences daily by writing news items and press releases for publication on the Internet, in local newspapers and in national magazines. He also edits a quarterly journal for pastors in his denomination.

“Always a diligent worker … he consistently leads from a standpoint of high moral and ethical principles,” Dr. Raymond F. Culpepper, former general overseer of the Church of God, said.

Culpepper, who worked with Fisher during his eight years as general overseer, noted, “While I have witnessed and admired in him all the traits of an outstanding employee, I have further recognized and appreciated his sincere and thorough-going dedication to our Cleveland and Bradley County community.”

Dr. Bill George, coordinator of missions education and publications for Church of God World Missions, agrees.

“Although he excels in his profession, Cameron’s greatest contributions probably lie in his community involvement,” George said. “He has been ‘Mr. Cleveland’ in terms of widespread participation in the life of the city.”

Fisher’s community service spans a variety of organizations.

“Cameron and I have cooperated in various venues for about 15 years,” George said. “He has furnished long-term leadership in each endeavor with which he is involved. To his credit, he is not just an ‘up-front’ leader; he is consistently involved in day-to-day work, including physical labor, to ensure the success of any project associated with his leadership.”

He continued, “My close association with Cameron has enabled me to witness and admire his superior ethical standards and his sincere commitments to the causes with which he identifies.”

Fisher began serving on the board of directors for the Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce in 2002 and has continued in a variety of positions, including vice chairman of membership development, 2005-06; chairman-elect, 2007; chairman of the board, 2008; and vice chairman of public affairs, 2011-present. He also has spoken to the Youth Leadership on the qualities of a leader.

He has devoted years of service to the United Way of Bradley County as well, serving several times as a campaign solicitor and division chairman. In 1999 he served as the overall campaign co-chair, raising 5.6 percent over the goal. He has served on United Way’s executive committee for many years and is currently chairman of the board.

“As United Way chairman, Cameron has been a loyal supporter, encourager and friend not just to me personally, but to this entire community,” said Matt Ryerson, executive director. “Cameron has displayed that rare, selfless quality of serving his community with no personal agenda. In fact, a spirit of service is a family tradition, and Cameron has inherited the best of those genes.”

As chairman of the Greenway board, Fisher has been the prime mover behind the development of the Cleveland Greenway, an award-winning community project. His long-term commitment to this project has required hundreds of hours of meetings, coordination of activities and physical labor. He regularly contributes columns about the Greenway and its progress to the Cleveland Daily Banner.

“I truly believe in Cleveland and Bradley County and every time something happens [on the Greenway], I want to drive by and see it,” he said.

He took his passion for the Greenway a step further recently by helping Black Fox Elementary School, where his sister-in-law is principal, to develop its own “mini-greenway.” Appropriately named the “Fox Trot,” the new walkway is a wonderful addition for students, teachers and the Black Fox community.

Fisher has been a Rotarian for more than 20 years, holding the offices of newsletter editor, treasurer, vice president, president-elect, president and board member. He actively participates in all Rotary Club service projects, pioneered an Interact Club at Cleveland Middle School, contributes generously in support of local and international projects, organized a “Council of Presidents” involving past club leaders, and has served as a Rotary assistant district governor.

Under his leadership, the Rotary Club financed a water project for an orphanage in the Philippines and another for an elementary school in Liberia. His peers have honored him as a Rotarian of the Year.

Fisher is a member of the Cleveland Media Association and served as president of the organization in 2002. He received CMA’s “Excellence in Communications” Award in 2006.

Other community service activities include serving on the YMCA and Habitat for Humanity board of directors. He also has served on committees for the Museum Center at Five Points and the National Day of Prayer local observance.

An avid runner, Fisher has helped organize half-marathons and other local events to benefit the community.

“Cameron is a firm believer in the greatness of Cleveland and Bradley County and is continually looking for ways he can contribute to its success,” Donna Fisher, his wife, noted.

Fisher married his wife, Donna, in June 1984. They have two children — a son, Grant, who is married to Nichole, and a daughter, Amanda — and are expecting a grandchild in the spring. He is an avid family man, always intentional about creating opportunities to spend time with his immediate and extended family.

As a hobby, Fisher has visited every gravesite of deceased presidents of the United States, and enjoys reading presidential biographies.

“Cameron tried to pass this patriotic passion on to our children when they were young by having them learn all the names of the U.S. presidents on their way to elementary school in the mornings,” Donna shared.

He and his siblings, Bob Fisher Jr. and Lori Fisher Wickham, recently spent time with their mother, Mary Fisher, visiting their childhood home in Hawaii.

“I’m proud to call Cameron my brother,” Dr. Robert Fisher, Lee University professor, said. “I have great admiration for his talents, his servant’s heart and his Christian witness. His leadership with the Greenway, Rotary and United Way has made our community a better place.”

This year’s award winner is also a key leader in Westmore Church of God, where he has been active in many aspects of church life for more than 35 years. He has been a member of the Church and Pastor’s Council numerous times, rotating off only when limited by tenure. He currently serves on the Building Committee and leads the public relations team for the church.

“I have known Cameron personally for more than 30 years, 12 as his senior pastor, and can honestly say he is an excellent communicator who demonstrates outstanding service, leadership and faithfulness to our church,” said the Rev. Kelvin Page, pastor of Westmore Church of God.

When Westmore began developing the 100-plus acres of then newly acquired property formerly known as Rolling Hills Golf Course, Fisher was named to head the Property Development Committee. As part of his role, he edited Westmore Connector, a development update written for the congregants.

In other church activities, he was a member of the sanctuary choir and drama team, has taught a Sunday school class for young adults and has been a parent volunteer for the youth group. He generously supports the church financially.

Fisher enjoys traveling and has participated in numerous ministry trips to such countries as Scotland, Russia, Belgium, Romania, the Philippines, Korea, Israel and Cambodia.

Cleveland Mayor Tom Rowland summarized this year’s Varnell Award winner.

“He is a dynamic young man. ... He represents our community well in any endeavor he undertakes. He is a natural-born leader, plus has the ability to offer new creations, new ideas and broader visions for our future. ... ‘If you want something done, give the job to a busy person’ ... has proven to be correct in any project undertaken by Cameron Fisher.”

Fisher said, “My love for this community comes from a deep-seated appreciation for what it is and what it has given to my family, and I’m so glad I’ve been able to be here for almost 40 years. I’m not a native, but I might as well be, because I’m going to be here for the rest of my life.”