Colliers continue to make Northampton great
Published 4:30 pm Friday, February 17, 2023
If you’ve ever attended a groundbreaking or grand opening/ribbon-cutting event in Northampton County since 1995, the chances are pretty near 100 percent that you saw either Judy Collier or Dick Collier in attendance.
Those chances are equally the same that you saw both of them in attendance…standing side-by-side just as they have since exchanging their wedding vows in 1980.
2023 marks the 28th year that the Colliers have worked together to make Northampton County a better place to live, to work, and to do business.
The Colliers were involved with the creation of the Northampton County Chamber of Commerce in 1995 when local officials there saw the need for one. Prior to that, everything that was requested of Northampton County by people outside of the county went to the county’s Economic Development Director (Gary Brown at that time).
The husband and wife attended the initial meeting where the Chamber was organized. They assisted in the wording of the Chamber’s bylaws and the entity becoming incorporated.
The Colliers recalled the community enthusiasm behind the creation of the Chamber during a public meeting to discuss formation.
The Chamber had humble beginnings with it initially based out of the Colliers’s home in Lasker. The office eventually moved to Jackson.
The story prior to becoming involved in their current-day jobs of Chamber of Commerce Executive Director (Judy) and Northampton County Tourism Development Authority Executive Director (Dick) is one where it’s clear they were meant to be together.
They met in February of 1978 in Chicago, Ill. at a Bell Atlantic (now Verizon) seminar. Both were engineers for the telephone company, Judy being one of the first female engineers and who also managed the budget in Virginia for Bell Atlantic.
They corresponded with each other after that business meeting, but it was of a long distance variety as Dick worked in Norfolk, VA and Judy was living in her hometown of Mechanicsville, VA and working in Richmond, VA.
At Judy’s urging, her boss managed to get Dick transferred to the Richmond office. Once there, romance bloomed between the two. Even after they married in 1980, they worked for 12 more years with Bell Atlantic. Upon retirement, each had worked 30 years with the company.
Shortly after retirement, the couple moved to Lasker, Dick’s hometown, to care for his aging parents.
A city girl since birth, Judy took two years to adjust to the rural setting of Northampton County, but slowly the couple began their widespread involvement within the community, including with Lasker Baptist Church, the Roanoke-Chowan Shrine Club and the American George Masonic Lodge #17. In 1993, Dick took on the role of mayor in Lasker and Judy became the town clerk and zoning administrator, roles they both continue to hold.
On a typical day at the office, the Colliers field calls, answer emails, coordinate upcoming events and promotional material. Then there are the evening meetings as both work their respective governing boards, as well as attending ground breakings and ribbon cuttings. It was the latter where I saw them last week, as usual standing stately side-by-side at the formal grand opening of the Chief Joe White Education Center in Rich Square.
Although Dick and Judy work for two separate entities, the areas of commerce and tourism are closely intertwined, perhaps, like a marriage, each supporting the other equally.
They have led the charge to bring and support new businesses in Northampton County. Dick has been a mainstay behind the effort to improve tourism in the county. Those efforts have been extremely productive, to include a public shooting range and boat ramp on the Roanoke River, both located near the now closed Odom Prison.
They also host networking at social events, like Business After Hours held each quarter as well as the Northampton Chamber’s annual meeting and banquet.
For all of their 43 years of marriage – which produced five children and enough grandchildren and great grandchildren that it takes all of their fingers to count, Judy and Dick have worked together in all aspects of their life from the personal realm to the professional sphere, political arena and in civic duties.
They are also actively involved in the county’s still growing Cultural Arts Committee, which serves as another avenue to make Northampton County more diverse. They have produced tourism brochures and developed a website (www.visitnorthamptonnc.com) that features a “Visit Northampton” video.
The Colliers were behind an effort to have Northampton County placed on the Lafayette Trail, marking the route the famous Frenchman took when he visited the United States following the Revolutionary War. It was February 27, 1825 when the General visited the Northampton Courthouse, a village now incorporated as the Town of Jackson. A beautiful mural was painted on the side of a business in downtown Jackson to recall that visit.
The Northampton County Chamber of Commerce currently boasts a membership that well exceeds 125 and it’s all due to the efforts of this hard-working couple.
Thanks to Judy and Dick for all you do and continue to do for my home county.
Cal Bryant is the Editor of Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 252-332-7207.