After living in New York for 30 years, Barbara Burton moved to Birmingham and immediately fell in love with the city. In fact, she loves Birmingham so much that she built a business around getting other people to love the city, too. Barbara is the founder and president of Chalker Group, an all-female firm that assists Birmingham businesses and organizations in recruiting the best and brightest job candidates by helping the prospective employees and their families feel connected to the city. We are excited to introduce our newest FACE of Birmingham, Barbara Burton.
What brought you to Birmingham, and what made you fall in love with the city?
My family. I’m originally from South Alabama, and my family is all from Alabama. I was a recent widow, and I wanted to come home and be with my family. I was so impacted by how warm and friendly the city is. My adult children moved here, too, and people immediately made all of us feel welcome. We felt connected to the city because the people were so warm and friendly. We’ve all been through a lot, and to come to Alabama and have people be so warm and opening doors for us — it’s really felt like a nurturing gift to live here. I was also knocked out with how much Birmingham has to offer. In New York, you can go to the symphony or a play or the opera, but you can do all of that here and drive 10 minutes to get there.
What inspired you to start Chalker Group?
I was in a meeting of the Downtown Rotary, and people there are really devoted to giving back to the city and giving of themselves to try to move the city forward. So, I just decided I, too, want to do something to give back. I knew that UAB had a new dean of the School of Medicine, Dr. Selwyn Vickers, and he was going to be recruiting top talent. After I met with him, I was so inspired and I thought, This is what I want to do. I want to try to help families or individuals who are considering Birmingham. I want them to see Birmingham how I see Birmingham.
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How do you feel Chalker Group helps make Birmingham better?
I think Chalker helps Birmingham be better because we are so focused on bringing top talent to Birmingham. I wanted to recruit talent differently. Usually, people helping with recruiting will just put people in a car and drive them around and show them a general kind of viewpoint, but I wanted to be very specific. We spend hours as a team understanding what the recruit’s family’s needs are and showing that to them when they’re here. We want to know what moves the needle for their family. That might be culture. It might be religious aspects. It may be “My son is a star soccer player at his middle school, and I want a team that’s great for him.” It could be “We’re very involved in bird watching.” You never know.
Along with your love for Birmingham, what do you feel has prepared you for the work you do through Chalker Group?
My late husband (who was an investment banker) had been recruited several times. So, I experienced as a spouse what recruitment feels like. I would ask myself, Are they including me in the recruiting process? Sometimes they would do a good job with that, and other times not at all. In today’s world, the spouse or partner can be the decision-maker. That significant other has a voice, and we better pay attention to it.
What are some of your favorite things to do and places to go in Birmingham?
I love to take a walk through the Botanical Gardens. I love to go to Red Mountain Park. I love to go to the Alabama Symphony. It’s just incredible for a city of this size to have such amazing musicians. I think the Civil Rights Institute is amazing. And the Birmingham Museum of Art knocks me out — I love it! When I have people come here from New York, and I take them to the Birmingham Museum of Art, they’re completely wowed by it.
What are some of your favorite restaurants in the city?
I love all of Frank and Pardis Stitt restaurants — Bottega, Bottega Cafe, Chez Fonfon, Highlands Bar and Grill. I love Hot and Hot Fish Club. I got married last year to a wonderful person here in Birmingham. My husband and I love to go sit at the bar at Daniel George, cozy up there and have a meal sitting at the bar and just be low-key. I love Automatic. It’s cool and hip, and the food is incredible.
What’s the best advice you have to give?
Take time for yourself. We’re all so busy in our lives, but it’s so important to try to slow down and take time for your own soul. It’s really easy when things are difficult and painful to stay on that treadmill running as fast as you can to avoid it. But I’ve always felt what’s important is to try to take a lot of moments for myself. I find it healing to do that.
Name three things you can’t live without.
Dunkin’ Donuts decaf coffee, natural crunchy peanut butter, and Revlon ColorStay lipstick.
Thank you, Barbara! To learn more about Chalker Group, visit chalkergroup.com. All photography provided.
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