Creating a Sense of Community in Northeast Tennessee & Southwest Virginia

Miles Burdine: A Born Leader with a Servant’s Heart

In virtually every endeavor he’s taken on, he’s risen to the top. When he talks, people listen. When he doesn’t talk, people want him too speak. His words carry weight, but his actions speak the loudest. Whether it is ordering Marines on the front lines of war-torn countries or directing boardroom banter for million dollar meetings, the retired U.S. Marine Corps Colonel and current Kingsport Chamber CEO isn’t afraid to take the lead. In fact he relishes it.

It’s the public accolades, though, that he often shies away from. It’s not uncommon, for example, for Burdine, who’s had a varied, rich, and nuanced career; to know every answer to every question. But rather than speak himself, he often punts media requests for interviews to others, equally as knowledgeable, who he believes deserve the spotlight more. When it comes to any of the seemingly hundreds of events he’s involved with yearly, he’s more content to let a colleague deliver the keynote speech or give the big toast. But Burdine, always sitting at the lead table, can often be seen sitting there quiet and confident, smiling as a friend or colleague gets the limelight. For Miles, it’s not about the accolades, titles or name recognition: it’s about results. It’s his way and it works.

So when Miles Burdine was recently awarded the Ed Moore Santa Train Service Award, an award that recognizes the year-round effort it takes to make the Santa Train happen, it was no surprise he turned the focus to someone else again. “The best part of this is that Ed Moore’s name is on it,” he said. Moore, a longtime, beloved Food City employee, spent 20 years volunteering, leading and promoting the Santa Train. In 2012, Ed Moore was the first recipient of the Santa Train Service Award. The following year, Moore passed away unexpectedly and the award name was changed to the Ed Moore Santa Train Service Award to honor his memory.

A couple of weeks later, when the Kingsport Chamber mentioned the award again during its annual “State of Your Chamber” Holiday Breakfast, Chamber Board Chair Bob Feathers said Burdine “is going to hate me for saying all this.” But it’s true. Burdine’s dedication to the betterment of not only Kingsport, but also the entire region, is something worth noting. His current initative and past successes read like a who’s who of community involvement.

Burdine, the Kingsport Chamber wrote in a press release, “is a major reason for Kingsport’s growth and success.” When asked about working at the Kingsport Chamber, Burdine often says, “I love my job. I look forward to going to work every day. I work with amazing people – volunteers, staff, government – who genuinely want to improve our city, region, and state. I’m especially proud of the chamber employees who dedicate themselves every day to improving our community. I’m a lucky man…I get paid to work with exceptionally talented and determined people, I have a daily opportunity to help others and I get to work on projects that can positively impact the lives of many.” In addition to the many projects and programs he supports at the Chamber he mentions being proud of helping build the Gold Star Families Monument, The Sentinel, and his most recent project: The Miracle Field. “The Miracle Field project, being led by Jud Teague, has captured my heart…and it will yours, too.”

Still, for all the work Burdine has poured into the city, he still seems amazed at the recognition. As award speakers began to describe this year’s winner, Burdine had a look of shock and disbelief on his face. When his name was called, the retired U.S. Marine Corps Colonel, who should and could be hardened after leading, training, and serving with units from countries such as Kenya, Iraq, France, Italy, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Turkey, Israel, Lebanon and England; seemed to melt. He was clearly touched. Tears rolled down his cheeks.

After serving three deployments to combat environments – one as a commander of security task force in Beirut, Lebanon in 1983; another in 1991 as the commanding officer of L Company 3rd

Battalion 24th Marines in Saudi Arabia’s Operation Desert Storm; and finally in 2005 and 2006 as Governance Support

 Team commander of the 6th Civil Affairs Group during operation Iraqi Freedom in Ramadi, Al Anbar, Iraq  – he’s come to appreciate these moments, despite his tendency to shy away from the attention.

What Burdine doesn’t seem to mind though is taking the limelight when it means he can motivate others. After his 30-year U.S. Marine Corps career, and now after his decades plus effort in local governance, he’s routinely called on as a motivational speaker and leadership guru for a wide range of groups.  “If you ever have to scrub a toilet you should do so with enthusiasm,” he’s often said, one of many witty one-liners that have become an integral part of his down-home charm.

Miles can often be heard giving the credit for his success to Denise; his wife of 35 years. “John Eldredge said in his book “Wild at Heart” that all a man really wants is a battle to fight, a beauty to protect, and an adventure to experience. Thanks to Denise, I was able to do all three. Denise is the real hero. She took care of our family each time I was deployed. I was able to serve and do what I loved because of her support”. Denise is a retired special education teacher from Hawkins County School System. Since her retirement she has pursued her passion for helping animals and now volunteers for PetWorks. This past October she was instrumental in putting together a new fundraiser for the shelter. “Dine to Donate” took place on October 30th and was a huge success with a whopping 26 restaurants in Kingsport participating. The high level of participation is a reflection of the passion and time she poured into this event.

The Burdines value community development and have instilled the same in their three daughters. Laura, Laura, and Laura (Nikki, Laura, and Alyce) were each named after their mother Laura (Denise). All three are graduates of The University of Tennessee.

VIPSEEN is honored to be featuring Miles and Denise on the cover this month for all the things mentioned above and so much more. When some of his staff were let in on the secret cover (yes, secret…he would have never willingly allowed this much attention to be given to him) they were excited and proud of their leader, sice the way he leads his staff is admired. He often reminds them…never below you, never above you, always beside you! After all, he often says, “People don’t follow titles, they follow courage.”

Burdine is active and serves or has served in many leadership capacities with many community and state organizations, including, but not limited to:

• Tennessee Board of Regents

• Board of Judicial Conduct

• Governor’s First to the Top Advisory Council

• Governor’s Commission on Judicial Nominations

• State Collaborative on Reforming Education

• Governor’s Energy Policy Task Force

• Campaign Chairman and President of the United Way of Greater Kingsport

• President of the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce Executives

• Tennessee Chamber of Commerce Executive Committee and Board of Directors

• BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee Board of Directors

• Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives

• Tennesseans for Quality Early Education

• Tennessee Economic Development Partnership Board

• Founder of Someone Who Cares (a private charity)

• Founding board member of the Tri-Cities ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Lou Gehrig’s Disease) support team

• Tri-Cities March of Dimes Board of Directors

• Committee on Postsecondary Education

• Kingsport Veterans Memorial Committee

• Kingsport Higher Education Commission

• Leadership Tennessee Class V

• Advanced Manufacturing Partnership

• Northeast State Community College Foundation Board of Directors

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