Thanking my Hero

By Sheila Fender- Many in the Asheville Community (and far beyond) continue to check on me to see how I’m doing and to inquire about my now-resolved lawsuit against Biltmore Forest Country Club. For their concern, I am appreciative. By writing this letter, I hope to answer many of their questions and to thank the many kind people who stood by me.

Sheila Fender and NC Congressman Mark Meadows.

I started working at Biltmore Forest Country Club when I was a young girl in my early twenties. I was employed at the Club for more than forty years. During those years, I worked with over ten General Managers, around sixteen club Presidents, and seven Head Golf Professionals. Throughout that time, I had four main loves in my life: God, my family, my friends, and Biltmore Forest Country Club. Even to this day, many of my friends are club members.

We all have heartbreaks in our lives. One of mine was being fired by the club after I opposed what I believed were illegal employment practices and then being escorted off of the property.

The circumstances prompting my lawsuit against the club are things that I choose not to speak about publicly. Instead, I try to cherish the fond memories I have of many wonderful years spent with friends and colleagues at the club. However, because so many thoughtful people continue to inquire, it’s important for me to take this opportunity to let them know that I’m doing fine and to thank the many people who helped me through the entire ordeal. It’s also especially important that I share with others my gratitude for my hero through it all.

And, who is my hero? It’s Kellam Warren, my attorney, confidant and friend. He has been a life saver for me in so many ways.

You go through life thinking you will never be involved in a lawsuit, but if it does happen, you ask around and do some research. I needed the right attorney for my case, someone who understood my fears and would not leave me in the dark.

My friend and former club member John McNabb recommended Kellam Warren as a vibrant, hardworking, extremely intelligent attorney who happened to be well versed in employment law. He also said that Kellam’s firm was very client focused. I discovered this to be my experience, because Kellam’s compassionate voice was just a phone call away, and he always answered my calls.

I recently spoke with Mr. McNabb about the whole lawsuit experience and about his personal experience with Kellam Warren. Mr. McNabb shared with me, “When I was still a member, out of the blue, I became the recipient of what I believed was aberrant behavior from an employee of Biltmore Forest Country Club, so I decided it best to seek counsel as a precaution since I felt the club’s leadership was increasingly failing to respond appropriately to complaints by members and long-time employees.” He felt that with Kellam’s business litigation experience, and his very unique law firm, he was the right man for the job.

When I asked Mr. McNabb about his search for counsel and how he decided to ultimately retain Mr. Warren, he said “I used the same selection process I’ve come to trust over the years having now worked with ten out of eleven of the top law firms in America.”

Mr. McNabb listed for me, “Five requirements for selecting legal representation are that counsel should have 1) the ability to be a vigorous advocate, 2) specific and relevant knowledge of the law, 3) a demonstrable track record of winning, 4) business acumen 5) be someone I enjoy being around.” Kellam checked off these boxes.
Mr. McNabb told me that after personally meeting with Mr. Warren and speaking with an out of town friend who knows a great deal about Mr. Warren’s prior experience as a partner in a large business law firm in Raleigh, Mr. McNabb ultimately selected Mr. Warren. I am grateful for Mr. McNabb’s advice and all of the work it took to arrive at this recommendation.

I hired Kellam, too, and am so thankful I did! Many of my Asheville native friends encouraged me to retain one of the large Asheville firms, or some big firm lawyer from out of state. However, I never questioned my selection, as I trusted Mr. Warren based on my personal dealings with him, and Mr. McNabb’s solid endorsement of him.

Mr. McNabb told me that, looking back, “Mr. Warren was everything that I was looking for in an attorney.” Even though Mr. Warren lives in Asheville, he mainly practices law outside of the city. McNabb shared a little more with me about Mr. Warren’s practice, “He’s a business-minded lawyer, having founded Mainsail Lawyers – a unique law firm that Kellam created that allows lawyers with large firm training and experience to serve clients ranging in size from individuals to multibillion-dollar corporations.” Mr. McNabb added, “Just since he founded Mainsail Lawyers, Kellam has represented clients in business and employment litigation matters in at least 14 states.”

Mr. McNabb also liked that Kellam Warren seemed to have the right priorities, “Kellam, who moved to Asheville primarily for family education reasons, was not a part of the Asheville establishment.” That mattered a great deal to me, as I knew my attorney would have to be willing and able to stand up against the negative resistance and pressure he would face taking on such a case in Asheville.

I loved working with Mr. Warren, because throughout the entire ordeal, he always treated me like I was his only client. Perhaps, Mr. McNabb summed it best by saying, “As an attorney, Kellam is client-focused, knowledgeable of the law and I work directly with him and not through a secretary or legal assistant. His best attributes, however, are his toughness and compassion.”

Though details of the lawsuit are public information and have already been covered in a number of newspaper articles, that’s not what it’s important to me now. What’s important to me is that my true friends stood by me and supported me as a long-time, female employee who had never ever been through anything like this before.
Because I will never have an opportunity to say thank you to everyone who helped me or even just encouraged me along the way, it’s important to me to have this opportunity to say “THANK YOU” to all of you and to let folks know about my hero, and about my wonderful friends who stood by my side and offered unwavering support.

I especially want to thank John McNabb for standing up for me, in a world where not many people will stand up for anything. He is a man with a national and international purview who stays very busy but was not too busy to support me from start to finish. I also want to thank Dan Pratt, a special man, who was with John for the entire ordeal. And I want to thank all of the strangers who have come up to me to ask about my situation at Biltmore Forest Country Club, and the many, many others in Asheville and far, far beyond who called and continue to call to voice their support for me.

Because many continue to ask, I also want folks to know that, again, I am doing fine. Life goes on, and I am well. I will share that I have been presented with a number of interesting job opportunities, and while I am exploring some of them, I am for now just enjoying spending more time with my family and friends.

I praise God for giving me the strength and courage to stand up and oppose the circumstances that prompted the filing of my lawsuit. I feel good about standing up for myself and for other long-time and/or female employees who may find themselves in similar situations. Most of all, I want those reading my heartfelt thanks to know that there are still good people in the world – willing to stand up for what is right! I’m proud to call some of them my best friends and one of them my hero!

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