Huntersville Chamber CEO apologizes after altered photo appears in newsletter


Pictured above: An altered photo of a groundbreaking ceremony (in red square on left) was sent in a recent Huntersville Chamber of Commerce newsletter – Pictures courtesy of Business Today

Dave Yochum, Business Today

CORNELIUS, N.C. (BUSINESS TODAY) – Two heads are better than one, but not if the heads are the same. At least that’s what CEO Jill Swain learned after the Huntersville Chamber e-newsletter went out. In a Frankensteinian example of photoshopping, someone removed Mayor John Aneralla’s head and put another guy’s head in its place.

If it sounds messy, it was. Business Today reports the jarring photo of a hotel groundbreaking was sent to hundreds of members as well as town officials—with the mayor’s head cut off.

The typical chamberesque photo of people grinning and gripping shovels has local business people deeply annoyed at the former mayor.

After all, most business people want good relations with their mayor.

Not Swain. She launched the chamber after she lost to Aneralla, creating a job for herself.

Aneralla wouldn’t comment, but Swain has owned up to the gaffe.

In an email, she apologized to the mayor but denied knowing who actually cut her former opponent’s head off.

“I was going to send you a handwritten note, but then thought perhaps it would be more appropriate to have this on public record, simply because I want you to see that I am publicly reaching out with an olive branch and an apology,” Swain wrote.

She also apologized for unpleasant personal political posts on social media.

“I invested 16 plus years of my life into public service and take personally the progress of many of the aspects in which I was involved. I have done the same with this Chamber of Commerce—invested not in my own goals, but those of our local/area businesses,” she said.

“While I tried to invite you to events and was told you were not a supporter of our Chamber, I should have continued the effort, and I probably should have remembered that the lines of my personal and public beliefs are often blurred,” Swain said.

Swain came out on the wrong side of the I-77 toll disaster, which ended the political careers of a number of politicians from former Cornelius Mayor Chuck Travis all the way up to Gov. Pat McCrory. Aneralla, who opposed the toll plan, unseated Swain with 59 percent of the vote in 2015.

“To be honest with you, I received photos from that event from a number of sources and just plugged one in. I don’t know how to photoshop myself and don’t know where the photo came from. But I do know how to proofread and review and I did not do that. I am sorry. I will take full ownership of the error but do want you to know that it was neither intentional or malicious,” she said.

She went on to advise that she hoped “you share my beliefs that no matter what we do, this is not about us. It is about the legacy we leave behind. These incidents, and my discussion with my board members, makes me realize that in the end, I simply want to fade out of life knowing that I did some good in the world.”

It does not make her happy to be at odds with Aneralla, she said.

“To be honest, I have said for years that losing the election to you was a good thing for me — because I still have the chance to work on things that mean the most. I get to bring people together on a daily basis. As such, I should be the one to continue to extend an invitation to see the good that our Chamber does, because it can be a healthy extension of what the Town is doing,” she wrote.

She asked Aneralla to “help me bridge the gap on behalf of our Town and our businesses.”

She hopes they can move forward.

“There are good things ahead for our town and our businesses and I’m ready to lead by example on how to overcome disagreements,”

This all happened after MP Huntersville broke ground on a four-story, 84-room “My Place Hotel” just off I-77 in Huntersville. It will be the extended-stay brand’s first location in the state.

The project marks the fifth My Place Hotel for its general contractor, Celtic Services. “We really enjoy the process My Place HQ has developed to coordinate everything needed from ownership and general contractor,” Aaron Lawson, one of the founders of Celtic Services, said in a statement.

This story originally appeared on the website of Business Today.