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Interview with Charlotte Hicks, June 26, 2007 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database

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Interview with Charlotte Hicks, June 26, 2007
June 26, 2007
Charlotte Hicks is a 4th-generation Wilmingtonian, a CPA, a master diver, and the head of a family business began by her grandfather in the 1920s. In this interview, she discusses her personal and professional history, her work with programs in underdeveloped countries, and her predictions for Wilmington's development.
Phys. Desc:

Interviewee: Hicks, Charlotte Interviewer: Jones, Carroll Date of Interview: 6/26/2007 Series: SENC Notables Length 60 minutes

Jones: Today is June 26, 2007. I am Carol Jones with Chris Malpass for the Randall Library Special Collections Oral History Program and please excuse the air conditioned voice. Our interview guest this morning is Charlotte Hicks. Charlotte is a four-generation Wilmingtonian, daughter of John and Carolyn Hicks. She attended Duke University and Chapel Hill as well as Sweet Briar College collecting degrees in international economics, computer science, a master's in accounting and as a registered CPA. Is that right?

Charlotte Hicks: That's correct.

Jones: Is a very bright young woman, joined EDS in Dallas owned by the formidable Ross Perot, one-time presidential candidate and Naval Academy graduate. Charlotte is now head of the family business, one of the growing number of daughters continuing a legacy. Good morning, Charlotte, and thanks for joining us.

Charlotte Hicks: Good morning. My pleasure.

Jones: Tell us about growing up in Wilmington and what the city was like then. I have to say you're not an old lady but things have moved so rapidly that we'd like to hear your views.

Charlotte Hicks: Things were very different. In fact, I didn't really grow up in town as we called it then. I grew up on Greenville Sound right on the intercoastal waterway. My father had grown up with a summer home on Masonboro Sound and loved being on the waterway so when my parents were married as soon as they could they bought property on the intercoastal waterway.

Jones: Smart.

Charlotte Hicks: Well, at the time everyone thought why in the world do you want to live so far from town? It was after all a long, arduous 10-minute drive in to town and almost 15 minutes to get downtown to where Belk's and the all- the central business district, all of the shopping, was. So I grew up really almost out in the country as it was considered then. Of course, now trying to get property along the water is nearly impossible so my father looks like a genius in the real estate investment world but it was a idyllic childhood really, very, very low crime here growing up and things were safe and waters were clean and I spent most of my childhood outside running around and out in the boat and swimming and sailing and a very healthy lifestyle growing up--

Jones: Where did you go to school?

Charlotte Hicks: I was- went to elementary school at Bradley Creek Elementary, the old location before it burned down, which is where the Arboretum is now and then ended up going to Wilmington Christian Academy for a number of years before I went to Hoggard High School.

Jones: Really.

Charlotte Hicks: Very good high school.

Jones: Hoggard-- I remember when that was built because we would come down in the summer and everybody was talking about the modern place and their sports teams--

Charlotte Hicks: Well--

Jones: --and then--

Charlotte Hicks: Actually, Hoggard-- The year I was at Hoggard was the first year that Laney High School had a class that had gone all the way through Laney so that was the brand new high school when I was coming along. It had just opened up with their star basketball and baseball player, Michael Jordan.

Jones: You had a chance to see him play--

Charlotte Hicks: Yes.

Jones: --before he became somebody--

Charlotte Hicks: That's right.

Jones: --but he was somebody even then. I've heard so many stories and when we first started coming here many years ago with our children my husband would talk about a day at the beach. It was a really big thing. And I can remember listening to Margaret Moore talk about packing up to go to the beach for the summer. I could not believe this, that people would do that, 10 miles, 12 miles away. Anyway, you had all the fun of knowing everybody probably and they all knew who you were because it was not right with a bunch of newcomers.

Charlotte Hicks: That's true. Most of the people that were here had been here for quite a while and it was a very social town as well. People really knew each other and took time to stop and speak as you passed them along the street so I remember my mother telling me how important it was to dress up and look my best when we went in to town because we would see people when we went.

Jones: That's great.

Charlotte Hicks: That's right.

Jones: That's all right. There's nothing wrong with that even today. Tell us about college. You went to two universities and one college.

Charlotte Hicks: Well, the- my time at Duke University was-- Duke University was just starting their pre college program. This was-- The year I went was a pilot year. It was a test case. They picked 32 rising high school seniors from around the country and took us there for the summer before our senior year to do a couple of college courses and I picked economics and physics, easy things for the summer, and it was the- actually the summer that Skylab was falling. So I remember going up on the astronomy lab and watching Skylab fall with my physics class, which was very interesting, and then after high school graduation I went to Sweet Briar College because I had been very deep in to horseback riding and showed horses all the way through junior high and high school and just loved it.

Jones: You kept your horse there?

Charlotte Hicks: I didn't have a horse I- but I did ride and so I went to Sweet Briar because of their riding team and was there for two years and then transferred to University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and started a riding team there so I kept--

Jones: You started one.

Charlotte Hicks: I did. So we kept that going and I- in fact I ran into someone just recently that graduated many, many years after me who's now a acclaimed scientist who was on the riding team so that was- that's a particular joy of mine that that has passed on and many other Tar Heels have enjoyed it.

Jones: Where did you ride at Chapel Hill? Chapel Hill again is another one of those places that it seems there's very little land left and where would you ride at that time?

Charlotte Hicks: Well, the last year we were there actually Frank Kenan allowed us to come ride at his stable in Hillsborough but we went from place to place just trying to find a place that had the horses we could use as well because people didn't have their own horses. Generally, the school just used other horses so--

Jones: How did you end up in Dallas?

Charlotte Hicks: Well, my dad always teased me growing up that if I was really smart maybe someday I could work for his Naval Academy buddy, Ross Perot, and as an only child I have always been very competitive so I rose to the challenge and I worked in the family business for about a year and wanted to get out and see more of the world so EDS was doing some interviews and so I jumped at the opportunity and they hired me right away and picked up and moved to Texas so--

Jones: What was that like for you?

Charlotte Hicks: Texas was interesting. The day I drove in it was 74 degrees and that night it dropped to 4 so I wasn't sure what I had gotten myself in for.

Jones: What time of year was that?

Charlotte Hicks: It was in January so- but it was a good experience. They-- After three months I was transferred up to Detroit to work on a project for General Motors, and I can tell you this southern girl did not belong in Detroit, but I did survive and the opportunity came to move back to Dallas to work on a project and my father was kind enough to come up and help me drive the U-Haul back to Texas. And one of my favorite stories is that I complained and complained about the cold all year 'cause I had grown up here where the weather is just wonderful. Even winter is pretty bearable. And so I kept complaining about the weather and my father flew in to help me drive home and we had the worst weather the whole I'd been there, blizzard, ice and snow and wind chill was below zero, and he got off the plane and he said, "I thought you were just being whiny but it's really miserable up here," and I said, "Yes, Daddy. Please take me back south." So I moved back to Texas and actually ended up getting my master's in accounting at the University of Texas at Dallas and moving in to the tax accounting department at EDS, which was very interesting because I worked with international and- as well as federal tax--

Jones: You must have a very analytical mind. This started young you're telling me, high school. As a child, what were your interests? Did you play dumb games like dolls or did you--

Charlotte Hicks: I never played with dolls. My mother tells me my favorite toy when I was very little was a Tonka truck because I always wanted to be outside. I-- My favorite magazine growing up was Ranger Rick. I loved National Geographic. I just loved being outside and exploring and being out on the water and learning about boats but I've always been a learner, just--

Jones: It's a challenge to you.

Charlotte Hicks: Uh huh, love learning new things.

Jones: What are you learning now?

Charlotte Hicks: Well, actually right now I'm studying to get my dive master certification so I can be in professional scuba world. I've been doing it for pleasure for a number of years so I'm--

Jones: Is that what you were in the Caymans for?

Charlotte Hicks: That's why I go to the Cayman Islands.

Jones: Do you know Janet Basam?

Charlotte Hicks: I do.

Jones: She cracks me up.

Charlotte Hicks: Uh huh. In fact, I ran in to her while I was in Cayman this last trip, which was fun.

Jones: Aside from you're going to be a dive master-- I've got to go further with that one. With all that you do, where are you going to do your dive mastering?

Charlotte Hicks: Well, here obviously is the opportunity but--

Jones: To do it here?

Charlotte Hicks: The diving is phenomenal here. We have some of the best wreck diving in the world.

Jones: What area?

Charlotte Hicks: Just right off the Wilmington coast all the way up to Hatteras. We have clear water here because we don't have a lot of rivers dumping into the ocean.

Jones: How far up do they go?

Charlotte Hicks: They go 30 to 40 miles where it's very, very good, and we've got incredible sea life here and so it's definitely something worth protecting.

Jones: Have you ever gone to the UNCW marine science area?

Charlotte Hicks: I have. That is a very impressive operation. In fact, there is a- the Central Caribbean Marine Institute is on Little Cayman where I spend a lot of time and the reputation that UNCW and the Marine Sciences Center down there has is phenomenal. I taught with many scientists with Noah while I was there and they have utmost respect for the staff at the Marine Sciences Center and the research they're doing. It's very well respected worldwide.

Jones: That's terrific.

Charlotte Hicks: It makes you very proud, doesn't it?

Jones: You were in Dallas. You worked on designing for, I believe it was the Saturn?

Charlotte Hicks: I did. I did the initial plant systems for Saturn Corporation.

Jones: That had to be pretty exacting work.

Charlotte Hicks: It was and there was a period of time when I- the plant manager had my phone number so at 6 o'clock in the morning the plant didn't come up correctly, the computer system, my phone rang so it was demanding work, which is why I decided to go into tax accounting 'cause no one wants to talk to a tax accountant at 4 o'clock in the morning.

Jones: I want to ask you about international economics. I'm going to pretend like the people who are watching this-- They're probably very educated but I think we need a quick overview of what international economics is. Is it business or--

Charlotte Hicks: Yeah. Economics really-- World Bank is the finance side, the international finance of how you fund various things going on. International economics is really a broader, softer field that looks at all the interactions between the different countries. The-- Well, I think certainly it's something that's happened since I've graduated from school is the expansion of the European union, the introduction of the euro. Those have had significant impacts in the balance of the world. Now the emergence of Russia, India and China are having- causing major shifts in--

Jones: How do you feel about that?

Charlotte Hicks: Well, there's certainly nothing we can do to change what's going to naturally happen in the world, but I think it's important for us to be educated and be aware of what that could mean and to be able to develop our own strategies of how we can best leverage that so we can all benefit.

Jones: Great Britain is the only country that has not succumbed to the euro. Right?

Charlotte Hicks: Uh huh.

Jones: Why do you think?

Charlotte Hicks: Well, throughout-- So much has happened in Europe but throughout all of that Great Britain has been Great Britain. You've had a lot of country shifts. You look at Yugoslavia which is now several countries, East and West Germany that are now one Germany. The turmoil that has gone through the continent has not really gone through the British Isles to that extent so I think there-- And of course my family always said there's a little of that scottern stubbornness- Scottish stubbornness, so we don't want to give that up, so I think it does have something to do with it. They're very-- Because they are an island they've got a bit of isolation. They feel as long as the pound sterling is good they'll stick with that.

Jones: I guess they feel a lot of things have been good for them for a thousand years. Why change now?

Charlotte Hicks: That's exactly right--

Jones: They may have something there-- In your work here you travel a great deal. Is this international travel as well?

Charlotte Hicks: I do some international travel and in fact just taught a seminar last week and had people from all over the United States as well as some from Canada in that seminar so that's part of what--

Jones: --teaching?

Charlotte Hicks: I teach financial management to independent insurance agency owners. Just like most small business owners, they tend to be really good at whatever it is that business is and in the insurance industry it's sales. Most of them are very, very good salesmen, very good people people, but most of them hate finances and they hate numbers and I think there are times that the accounting profession has made accounting a little too difficult to understand for the average person that just wants to know how to run their business. So my intention with the seminar has been to bring in them- bring to them accounting knowledge but boil it down and make it simple and give them tools so someone who doesn't like numbers, doesn't want to be an accountant, can still run their business and know what they need to do to make sure they're profitable.

Jones: In your position today here, you're continuing a business that's been around for four generations?

Charlotte Hicks: Three generations. My grandfather founded it in 1924.

Jones: That's sort of an awesome thing--

Charlotte Hicks: It is.

Jones: --and it says a lot for you. One thing I've noticed and that's been brought to my attention-- There seem to be a lot of insurance companies in this area, a lot of attorneys' offices. I know that many of them specialize. Tell me overall what--

Charlotte Hicks: We-- Our focus has been on property and casualty insurance and we do have some niches within that. We do a number of contractors. We do a number of homeowner associations, condo buildings. Coastal property obviously is one of our specialties and because of the unique problems we have insuring property on the coast--

Jones: I want you to talk about because that's why people come here.

Charlotte Hicks: Well, life was very easy for us for a long time. We had very quiet offshore winds, nice breezes every summer, and we just lived a very simple life. We had some threats but nothing really serious. In 1960, Hurricane Donna was the last real significant storm we had had until 1996 when Hurricane Fran- Bertha came first and then Fran came hauling and since that time of course we had several in fairly rapid succession. I believe in six years we had five full-blown hurricanes. And so what happened is the insurance companies started getting a little more concerned about what they were insuring on the coast and also during that time frame-- When I was young and especially when my father was young people built beach houses. They built nice little shacks on the beach. They were--

Jones: For fun.

Charlotte Hicks: They were for fun and they were vacation homes. They weren't primary homes and the furniture they put in them was their news- used furniture or low-end furniture, wicker things. They just knew they were building on sand and they were building on a barrier island and it could be gone and if it did- got blown away they just rebuilt it 'cause it- they didn't have a lot of money in it relatively speaking. During that long quiet time with no storms, I guess everyone just assumed that's the way it would be forever and so they started building larger and larger houses and also the wealth increased. There were more people who could afford to buy the property and build houses, which greatly increased the price along the beach but also the value in what was being built. So when Fran- Bertha and Fran hit there was a lot of significant damage that would not have been there if the houses had not- had undergone that change.

Jones: How do you feel on two levels, as someone who grew up here and enjoyed that wonderful, friendly, lazy life, sort of a castaway time, something-- I can relate to that because here I am in southern California. We used to do the same thing in Santa Monica but then the influx of people coming here and building and now huge monstrosities. I know they're duplexes in many cases but it seems to be out of character. How do you as a native feel about that?

Charlotte Hicks: Well, I am glad that Wrightsville Beach has limited the high rise buildings and there's always the thing-- We don't want to be that place just south of here that's high rise after high rise because what happens, and you see it in the large cities as well when you get a number of high rise buildings-- They have a life cycle as well and they get torn down and rebuilt or they end up standing empty and becoming an eyesore which the cottages don't tend to do. So I'm glad to see that Wrightsville Beach has stayed predominantly a residential beach as opposed to a commercial tourist, high rise condo place. I hope it stays- is- they keep as much of a cap as they can on the development because I think particularly Wrightsville Beach is so fragile that it just can't sustain heavy, heavy use.

Jones: Do you miss it being more of a family beach since there are a lot of people who are investors-- I guess it's a business proposition in many ways.

Charlotte Hicks: Well, being where- traveling where I have, it seems like Wrightsville Beach has had the slowest change of any beach I've seen. So many of the other ones have really completely lost anything they had and Wrightsville Beach is still a reasonably safe place to be. They've got the Loop, which is just wonderful on any given day. There's a great crowd out there and so I think they've done a reasonably good job of being able to protect what we have. There's only so much you can fight. You can't stop someone from-- I guess you can through building codes but people want to live in a nice house. If the lot's worth a million dollars, should it really have a $13,000 shack on it? So there is some of that that just is going to happen naturally but I do think that compared to what has happened to so many other places, short of being a national seashore like Masonboro Island I'm so glad has been barred from development and it's- having that right next door helps I think.

Jones: What do you think about the tremendous development of the rest of this area? Do you welcome it? Do you think it's been haphazard? How do you think it's changed the overall color and feeling of this area?

Charlotte Hicks: It's definitely been haphazard. There obviously was no long-range plan done 30 or 40 years ago. I think particularly before the opening of I-40 there really- people didn't think it would grow that fast and for a number of years there have been predictions that 50% of the population would live within 50 miles of the coast and sure enough now more than 50% do actually so it did happen. People have flocked to the coast in spite of the risks from storms. It would have been nice if some things had been planned out before. Having lived in Dallas where before a developer can develop anything they have to put in all of the infrastructure and many times they'd put in the infrastructure and then the developer would go bust so we- there were lots of six-lane concrete roads to nowhere, which was great for me when I was cycling. I used to make a lot of cycling but--

Jones: When you lived in Dallas, what was the population then?

Charlotte Hicks: Dallas was around a million. The whole metroplex was about 4 million, uh huh.

Jones: It's spread.

Charlotte Hicks: It has spread. It has grown and, granted, they've got a lot of land. They can go out in all directions whereas we're limited by our geography as to where we can spread but it would be nice to have seen things thought through a little bit more and when we've had a situation like Mayfaire, which is an attractive area but the roads certainly couldn't handle it, and we've had the mess with military cutoff while they have been trying to catch up to the development instead of leading with the infrastructure before the development was there but--

Jones: I gather that you're approving of a number of things but perhaps there could have been a little more thought given--

Charlotte Hicks: There could have been some thought and certainly for me the stresses that have been put on our sewage system that it has not been able to handle have been very upsetting. Being an ocean person and being a diver and underwater photographer, it's just heartbreaking to know--

Jones: --as well.

Charlotte Hicks: Yes, heartbreaking to know what has happened out on the coast because I go in the marshes in the boat and I- you can see the pollution there and it--

Jones: Can this be rectified in any way? Can anything be done?

Charlotte Hicks: Of course. It's going to be expensive and it's going to be painful and it's going to slow growth but it has to be done.

Jones: As far as other things that have changed, just since I've lived here I see some things that-- I think everybody can appreciate the growth of the art community.

Charlotte Hicks: Uh huh. That's been great to see and the growth of the restaurants-- Right. Right. Uh huh. The restaurants that the growth has brought on-- We've got some of the most fabulous food in the world here and I travel all over the U.S. and outside the U.S. and I can get as good a meal in Wilmington as just about anywhere.

Jones: You sound very pro Wilmington.

Charlotte Hicks: I am pro Wilmington. It's a nice place-- There are down sides to the growth. We certainly had some situations with crime that aren't welcome. We-- We're choked on our roads which the new roads have helped alleviate some of that but we're always playing catch-up there because the city wasn't designed in mind with a bunch of people driving automobiles.

Jones: What would you like to see happen that you think can happen from a business standpoint? You are a member of Rotary. Are you a member of any other groups, civic groups or volunteer groups in town?

Charlotte Hicks: Not at this time. I have in the past been a member of the Junior League but Rotary's been my focus since I've been here. My father's in Kiwanis so it was- and I'm of course involved in a church but our family has always had the- but I was raised knowing that you need to give to the community where you are and you need to be a part of the community. And Rotary is- excites me on so many different levels 'cause it's not- it's local, which is so important. We do many things. Cleaning up the yard for the domestic violence shelter is one thing that our group has been involved in and it's been exciting to do a lot of things that help people in the local area but it's also an international organization so we've been involved with things such as providing funds to drill wells to provide clean water to villagers in Mexico and Guatemala. We've been very involved in the Full Belly Project which was the brainchild of Jock Brandis who developed a mechanical way to shell peanuts and easy created- easily built so it's being rolled out. We started in Uganda and people that used to have to shell all their food by hand now can use this mechanical peanut sheller and it's making a huge difference in people's lives and I had no idea before we got involved in this but half a billion people in the world depend on peanuts for their primary protein source. And we're making a huge difference and a huge impact in the world and from our little Rotary club here in Wilmington and it's so interesting to talk to people from halfway across the world and they say, "Oh, I know Wilmington because your group did this" so--

Jones: That is an interesting observation. Having done the Blizzard Collection and John Capps' multitudinous papers, it is amazing to me that I think Rotary right now is made up of about 50% hometown people and maybe a little more than that from somewhere else and yet they have different goals, they're on different programs, many of them outside of this area just as you spoke about. When I talked to you one night when Beth Steelman was here-- Tell me about that project that you were working on.

Charlotte Hicks: This is very exciting and it's amazing that Wilmington is able to do this but we are bringing in 12 Russian entrepreneurs I think this fall to come in and this is a program that initiated- was initiated by the State Department to help bring entrepreneurial concepts to Russia and to help Russia develop a middle class as they were coming out of communism and the socialist environment. So what we did was we were bringing these executives over and were showing them how the insurance business--these will all be insurance people--how the insurance business is run in the United States because--

Jones: How come they're all insurance people--

Charlotte Hicks: We-- They do it by industry to focus it. They have had other groups focused in other industries but this is an insurance group. There are no independent insurance agents in Russia. They-- The industry is in its infancy because before the fall of communism all insurance was provided by the state and so it was- everything was state run. There were two insurance companies. They were both state run. Now we're actually getting privately run businesses and it's developing and they want to see how we do it here and learn from us so--

Jones: How did Wilmington get involved in this?

Charlotte Hicks: Wilmington got involved because Beth Steelman has often traveled to Russia and so she has a love of Russia and there was a group that came to Raleigh a number of years ago--I believe they were in real estate perhaps or construction, don't remember exactly--and came down to Wilmington to see what the ocean looked like and she met with them and so she heard about this program but it's through the Center for Citizen Initiatives and a conversation started and she told me about it and I thought that just sounded like a great idea. And because of my involvement in the insurance industry I felt I would be able to give them two weeks' worth of training from the people I knew and so--

Jones: Will they speak English or will there be interpreters?

Charlotte Hicks: No. They do not speak English so one of the people with them will be an interpreter so it will be slow training there because they don't do simultaneous interpretation. You speak and then you stop and let the interpreter interpret what you said, which will be an adjustment for us but I see it as a wonderful experience and the mayor has just been very gracious and the city council is going to officially welcome them and allow them to be on camera and--

Jones: These are from all over Russia--

Charlotte Hicks: All over Russia.

Jones: I'm thinking that it's such a vast country there is sometimes a dialect difference with doing business, etc. Have you done studying on what goes on over there?

Charlotte Hicks: They did provide us some information about the background of the industry and of course Beth has been studying here at UNCW, taking courses in Russian history and the Russian language, so she's- she can understand on the cultural side and the personal side and I understand some about the business and obviously I'm looking forward to learning more and perhaps even having opportunities to go there and do some training.

Jones: Could this possibly be a hands across the sea--

Charlotte Hicks: Absolutely, and we're hoping it's an opportunity for them to forge some friendships with people here as well that-- You never know where that could lead.

Jones: This is just through your one Rotary group or is this going to--

Charlotte Hicks: We are spearheading it but obviously we're going to need a lot of support to be able to house 12 people for two weeks and transport them and so it's- but the Rotary clubs in Wilmington are stepping up and this really and truly is going to be a Wilmington project.

Jones: That will certainly get them a lot of members.

Charlotte Hicks: Absolutely.

Jones: What else have you got up your sleeve?

Charlotte Hicks: So--

Jones: This Russian exercise I think is going to be fascinating. You'll probably learn just as much as they will.

Charlotte Hicks: Oh, I'm sure.

Jones: What are some of the things you'd like to do either through business or on your level with Rotary or for the betterment of living here, of-- Just name something. There must be something you want--

Charlotte Hicks: There are a thousand things and I would love to see more of the world and travel and I would love to be- continue to be involved in Rotary projects both here as well as internationally. I spoke with some- a group while I was at the Rotary convention recently about an initiative to eliminate malaria around the world as someone that spends as much time as possible in the tropics and has had friends that have gone through bouts with malaria and the number of people that it kills a year is staggering and to be able to be involved in a project that could perhaps do something to reduce that--

Jones: When I listen to you and a few other people it comes back to me that Wilmington has changed in so many ways, more than we hear on talk radio, more than we hear reading the paper, that it's becoming sort of an international base for many, many areas, and that is something that I think we need to know more about and that is why it's very important to hear some of you talk about it and it's very important too the fact that you are from here, you've watched all this happen, and it just excites you. I think that's fantastic. Where do you think we're going? Do you think that eventually the sewage situation will be taken care of, the roads will be taken care of, a flying bridge will go over the river, the convention center will be built and then what?

Charlotte Hicks: It's hard to say and we are almost at the point we're at a crossroads and we have to decide what we want our city to look like. Like I said, in the past there hadn't been a lot of long-range planning. I think it's time that we really look at this and say, "What do want this area to look like? Do we want to protect the natural environment that we have while still allowing for reasonable growth or is it growth at all costs?" And we--

Jones: Is there room for bigger business here, always trying to get corporations to come here?

Charlotte Hicks: I think so because in general in the United States corporations are shifting. There's less manufacturing and less sort of dirty industry and more and more intellectual capital here so it's very easy to have something like a PPD for example that is- they're not shoving-- They'll have smokestacks and they- they're not having to pull water from the river and they're not producing and they don't have pollution coming out of their facility. It's very easy for a company like that to be based here as long as they have accessible travel so more industries like that I think we're going to see, industries in the sense of more intellectual capital here and that's very clean, clean business.

Jones: You've mentioned clean a number of times. Are you an environmentalist?

Charlotte Hicks: Probably. I guess I would have to say I am. I certainly place the value of human life above the value of plant and animal life. I think obviously we are created for a reason but I also believe that we were meant to be good stewards of what's been given to us and I believe protecting our environment and protecting where we live in so we can enjoy what we see. I remember as a child seeing all the stars and you can't see them here now. You have to go either out on the boat out in the ocean or somewhere else to be able to see all the stars and there are so many children that have no idea how many millions of stars are up there. They see one or two at night and they think that's it 'cause that's all they've ever seen living in the city so--

Jones: Do you think it's just living in the city or do you think it's a way of life for children today who are baby-sat by the television or one of those little handheld-- They don't get outside. They don't run and play like you did, which is really too bad. I think it's been lost but probably the case of parents who work all the time and-- Did you have freedom as a child? So many of the children that I come in contact with are taken from one place to the other constantly--

Charlotte Hicks: That was--

Jones: They don't have their imaginations. I see this in my grandsons.

Charlotte Hicks: Well, that was one of the beauties of Wilmington when I was growing up. It was so safe. And I've been in other communities today that are safe like that where the children really can run and be wherever they want to because you don't have to worry about someone coming and snatching them or you don't have to worry about them getting hurt.

Jones: --drugs or whatever.

Charlotte Hicks: And so I did. I was-- Very little development around where I grew up- my house when I grew up. I ran in the woods, I played down at the water, I went out in the boat and I was taught at an early age water safety and I was taught at an early age basic being-outside safety but I was really free to pretty much do what I want while I was growing up. I could play in the yard even when I was a toddler and--

Jones: You're still doing that.

Charlotte Hicks: I'm still doing that. I'm still playing. My yard is just now under water but that's sad to see that go away and of course when I grew up we had one black and white television that was 13-inch screen and we only got ABC, NBC and PBS so I didn't spend a lot of time sitting inside watching television. There wasn't any point and it was long before video games or anything else so playing meant going outside and that's perhaps where I got my love of nature, having grown out- grown up away from the city out where there was lots of things to see.

Jones: Do you find that being a successful woman who is head of a business and who is involved in all these levels that you are is difficult today or is it accepted?

Charlotte Hicks: A little of both. Generally, around the country it's accepted and in a number of groups where I'm the only woman or one of one or two women and I'm very comfortable in those situations and I haven't been catered to or treated any differently than anyone else in the group. I will say in Wilmington though there is still definitely a culture of the men and the insurance industry is a little bit that way anyway, the- tend to take the clients out golfing or out fishing and there are not a lot of women that want me taking their husband out for two or three hours so I don't generally do that so--

Jones: What do you do? You don't take them out golfing and fishing. Do you just send them a package of steaks or--

Charlotte Hicks: That's right. We just have to-- We have to find other ways to interact with clients but it- it's- in some ways though that is a challenge. There is a still a good old boy network in the South. I don't know that it's just Wilmington.

Jones: I think it's everywhere. It really is.

Charlotte Hicks: But as Wilmington gets larger and I--

Jones: It doesn't seem to cause you any grief.

Charlotte Hicks: I can work around it. I think you can work around just about any obstacle in life if you intend to or you can sit back and just pout about it but--

Jones: Are you friends with some of the other young ladies who are here in Wilmington who are from here who have taken over the family businesses? Do you interact at all and--

Charlotte Hicks: I don't have a lot of interaction with them just because I'm just so busy running the business and traveling and doing other things but absolutely. It's--

Jones: They all seem to be smart cookies who wouldn't get there for no reason and stay there.

Charlotte Hicks: You may get there but you don't stay there. That's for certain. It's--

Jones: I think you're all to be commended. Do you find any grief locally with your male friends here, look on you as too intelligent to have fun with or whatever?

Charlotte Hicks: I haven't-- Not really. I--

Jones: They accept you.

Charlotte Hicks: Uh huh.

Jones: In a perfect world what do you think, with all the resources we have here, all the wonderful group of people who have worked for Fortune 500 companies, all of the people who are from here who want to preserve history and say preserving history is fun but there's no reason to keep an old building downtown, if it's really falling apart, get rid of it, but in a perfect Wilmington combining the new and keeping the old and keeping a southern flavor-- What do you think should go? What do you think should come?

Charlotte Hicks: I do think we need to be careful especially along the river front and in that downtown area of keeping the buildings in character with what it is. I've been to a number of cities that have gone through transformations. Downtown Cleveland is one, right along the river. They've done an admirable job of making that attractive and making it somewhere where people want to come and stroll and I think our river walk is--

Jones: Is becoming more and more--

Charlotte Hicks: Is-- It's a modern thing but it has kept the character of the river and I think things like that are really important, shopping areas like the Cotton Exchange keeping that looking like the Cotton Exchange where you wind through and go from level to level and you've got the old brick walls, you've got the old wooden floors. I think that is important to maintain that, to keep the character of the city. I was recently in Salt Lake City, which of course is much newer, built in the late 1800s- the mid to late 1800s. It's just concrete and the buildings are just buildings and having traveled places like San Francisco and New Orleans and other places that have such a rich culture, just to see concrete and buildings I thought what a shame for a city not to have its own personality. And Wilmington has its own personality and I think anything that's done needs to be done with that in mind and it's not that you can never tear down a building, particularly one that really looks bad, but when it's rebuilt it needs to be rebuilt in character with the area that it's in--

Jones: You're very forward sounding, sort of realistic, and that's a good way to be. Is there anything else you can tell us that we don't know? I'm going to amend that. I have to amend that. Is there anything about Charlotte, the things that you're involved in, the things you want to accomplish? We've covered a lot of ground. You're a very busy person.

Charlotte Hicks: I am a very busy person.

Jones: You're very busy but you have time for fun, diving.

Charlotte Hicks: Diving is really my fun and so that- that's what I do but--

Jones: And working on things through Rotary like you described.

Charlotte Hicks: Uh huh. It's been a great outlet.

Jones: Do you still have a lot of old friends here or have they gone?

Charlotte Hicks: Well, I- because I left-- I was gone for 12 years and many of them got married and had their families and I didn't have the life-- The plan A didn't work out, which was get married in my early 20s and have six or- four to six kids and--

Jones: When did you figure that one out, 13 or 14?

Charlotte Hicks: I just knew I was going to get married and have lots of kids and basically I had planned to be a housewife so that- definitely we're not on plan A--

Jones: That would never have happened. You know that.

Charlotte Hicks: Probably not. I have too much of a curious mind to do that so I- I'm sure I would have been involved doing something but yeah, I've led a different life, not raising children and not having that here-- You don't tend to run with and have the same activities as those that are going to soccer practice and taking their kids to dance and I certainly don't think that any of that distance was intentional. I think it's just a natural lifestyle. So I have tended to spend more time with people who are professionals or have finished raising their children and are--

Jones: Do you think the quality of the professionals here is pretty good? You've been in big cities.

Charlotte Hicks: Uh huh. Oh, we've definitely got some bright people here and of course the- we've got a number of early retirees that have come here from large corporations. The intellectual capital in the city is really amazing.

Jones: I have said this over and over again. I'll repeat it to you. I have been told and I've heard that Wilmington on the tax rolls has the highest number of mid and upper-level Fortune 500 types who have retired here. That is not to say that they live here all year around but they do own property here and I know a number of them, we've interviewed a number of them, and you're right. They're young enough to still be involved and I think how fortunate and I ask each one of them, "What brought you here? Why here?" And if they're artistic and so they said, "It's the life. It's the weather. It's close enough to go anywhere. I can relax and yet I can get involved." I've heard others say "Because friends of mine are here. I can talk to somebody." Do you agree with that--

Charlotte Hicks: I think that's true and--

Jones: And the resources are unbelievable.

Charlotte Hicks: The resources are here. Like I say, we've gotten great restaurants here. They can have as good a meal as they can have in any major city in the U.S. The beaches are gorgeous. By and large, our waterways are still pretty clean in spite of our sewage issues, got a great port if you're a sailor or a boater. You've got the ability to get to a lot of places fairly easily.

Jones: Now.

Charlotte Hicks: Uh huh, so--

Jones: Charlie Rivenbark said, "I think people come here because there's always something going on."

Charlotte Hicks: Uh huh. You can be busy every night going to a play or an exhibit or a lecture or--

Jones: --or a happening whether it's blueberries or the Azalea Festival. It doesn't seem to matter so there is something to do. That's terrific. Charlotte, thanks for coming.

Charlotte Hicks: My pleasure.

Jones: Keep up the good work and maybe sometime late in the year, early next year, come back and talk about what you've done this fall.

Charlotte Hicks: I-- That's going to be a really interesting and mind opening experience. I think we're all going to get immense pleasure out of that.

Jones: Maybe you and Beth can come back together if I can capture her. Her husband says, "I married her because I thought she was amusing but sometimes she is no longer amusing." Thanks for coming and this has been a lot of fun--

Charlotte Hicks: It has been.

Jones: --and you are absolutely unbelievable.

Charlotte Hicks: Thank you.

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