Huntsville Air Force vet embraces ‘service before self’ as a dedicated volunteer

single-meta-cal June 8, 2022

When Chief Master Sgt. Lyle Voyles, 75, retired from the Air Force 22 years ago and settled in Huntsville, he only retired from the challenges of air traffic control management. But he held onto the Air Force core values that guided him for more than 30 years, and one in particular – “service before self” – has driven his post-military activities, which include years of volunteerism in the Chaffee community.

Lyle Voyles speaks into a microphone to a crowd gathered at a neighborhood picnic.

Being a community volunteer isn’t all work. Voyles enjoyed being part of the Chaffee Community Picnic.

Voyles joined the all-volunteer Chaffee Neighborhood Civic Association (CNCA) almost immediately after moving to the community and has served as the organization’s president for several years. As Director of Community Affairs and Director of Community Watch for CNCA, he helps maintain and enforce ordinances that keep the neighborhood in good condition.

“It’s been a very positive experience working with the City,” Voyles said. “I’ve always appreciated that because it has contributed to our neighborhood being a lovely, desirable community in the City of Huntsville.”

Maintaining Huntsville’s vibrancy

About 10 years ago, Voyles was called upon to serve the newly formed Huntsville Citywide Council of Neighborhood Associations (HCCNA), which was initially comprised of 36 civic associations from around the City, and where he served as president for the past seven years. Members of the organization brainstorm how to maintain older neighborhoods more effectively and make suggestions for ordinances that adapt with changes in social behaviors.

“This is where I live and I need to contribute to it. That entails getting involved.” -Voyles

Voyles also volunteered on the Housing Board of Adjustments and Appeals through the City of Huntsville’s Community Development Office, which helps enforce ordinances that are on the books.

Keeping the ordinances current and enforced is essential to maintaining property values in older neighborhoods like Chaffee, which was established in the mid-1960s. Voyles commends Mayor Tommy Battle and the City Council for their progressive approach to development and attracting young professionals to Huntsville, but also cites the continuing importance of the City’s mature population.

“It’s the older professionals who made this ‘Rocket City,’” he said. “The older professionals that live in these older communities had every expectation that those older communities, which were at one time the newer and vibrant communities, maintain that vibrancy.”

‘A matter of service’

Voyles said his military experience directly influenced his decision to participate in his community association. He thought of the Chaffee community like his base.

Mayor Tommy Battle speaks in front of a crowd inside a church at a 2014 meeting of the Chaffee Neighborhood Civic Association.

CNCA regularly hosts guest speakers at meetings so attendees can hear experts and ask questions.

“This is where I live and I need to contribute to it,” he said. “That entails getting involved. It was a matter of service, and if you think about it, that’s what I had done for 30 years in the Air Force was serve.”

Want to follow in Voyles’ footsteps? Start by attending community meetings, where you can ask questions of City officials as well as volunteer representatives like Voyles.

Attending meetings is also an excellent way to get to know neighbors of a wider community.

“You develop an appreciation for your whole community,” Voyles said. “For example, the Chaffee community is 864 families. You get to see other parts of the community that you don’t usually see on a daily basis…and you can start to relate to issues in other parts of the area.”

Clear and consistent communication within the community has been important, particularly during the COVID-19 lockdown when many organizations were not meeting in person. Voyles cites Huntsville Connect and regular neighborhood newsletters explaining new ordinances as ways the Chaffee community has kept continuity in its improvement efforts.

Working together

Voyles is quick to point out that he is one of many dedicated community volunteers and nothing gets accomplished without working together and supporting each other. As Voyles recovers from recent medical issues, he said others within the organizations he serves will pick up the baton and keep things running smoothly.

“It’s a feeling of satisfaction because you see your neighborhood being maintained, you see others being proactive in it and you see others learning what they need to be doing to be proactive,” Voyles said. “You never do it all by yourself. It’s a group effort.”

Whether leading as an Airman, working as a civil servant with the Department of Defense or spearheading efforts in his Chaffee neighborhood “base,” Voyles lives to serve.

“That’s the bottom line,” he said. “I do it because you are serving your community. You are serving others, and that’s what I’ve been accustomed to for quite a few decades.”