Chamber honors community contributors including Rep. Tommy Benton

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The Jackson County Area Chamber of Commerce’s 2012 award winners included Citizen of the Year – Jim Scott; Volunteer of the Year – Tom Murphy; William H. Booth Award – Rep. Tommy Benton; Small Business of the Year – Allstate Insurance, accepted by Joel Harbin and Jonathan Milford; and Large Business of the Year – TenCate Geosynthetics, accepted by Lee Bryan. Ambassador of the Year Marshall Acree was unable to attend the banquet.

State Rep. Tommy Benton was honored Jan. 24 by the Jackson County Area Chamber of Commerce as the recipient of the 2012 William H. Booth Award.

Described as “a pillar in the community,” Benton is retired educator who taught history and government in Jackson County from 1974 until his retirement in 2004. One nomination called him the best teacher, a great man and a great role model. The pursuit of educational excellence was what he fostered in the classroom. A sixth generation Jackson Countian who attended Commerce High School, West Georgia College and Brenau University, Benton now serves in the Georgia House of Representatives.

Benton and his wife, Karen, have four children and two grandchildren. They are members of First Methodist Church of Commerce.

Benton began his teaching career the year after the Jackson County Area Chamber of Commerce was founded in 1973.

Those attending the Chamber awards banquet took a step back in time, and some literally reached back into their closet and grabbed some fashions that were perfect for the Chamber’s 40th anniversary theme.

For Director of Economic Development Courtney Bernardi, the evening was “my first chance to visit this decade.” She said it was really far out and just plain groovy to be able to take a look back at the Chamber year of 2012.

The banquet also included the ceremonial passing of the gavel of leadership from outgoing chairman Keith Johnson to new chairman Mark Valentine.

Past board chairman Keith Johnson of Jackson EMC provided a year in review. “The economy appears to be thawing,” said Johnson, who noted Jackson County secure four projects last year including Toyota Industries Compressor Parts of America (TICA). He credited the economic development team which includes the Chamber, the Industrial Development Authority, the cities, Jackson County and the school systems. He said the partnership continues to be successful.

Johnson said he was leaving the chamber in Mark Valentine’s capable hands. “He will keep the chamber moving forward,” said Johnson, who assures that the board’s plans for growth and involvement will be exciting.

Valentine shared what he recalled when he thought of 1973 when the Chamber was founded. Growing up outside Pittsburg, Roberto Clemente’s death in a plane crash as he was overseeing the delivery of supplies to earthquake victims in Nicaragua is burned in Valentine’s mind. He said the legacy of Clemente’s life is not simply baseball, but so much more. He was a man of character with an elite and unrivaled image.

In an effort to build the Chamber into more, Valentine challenged the membership to have a passion for the community and work toward enhancing the quality of life for all living and working in Jackson County. He challenged all to build on the achievements and accomplishments of the past and notch it up to the next level.

“Challenge the status quo and don’t run on autopilot,” said Valentine. He challenged each “to make each other better” and get on fire for the Chamber.

Other awards were also presented including Jackson County Citizen of the Year honors which went to Jim Scott, president of the Jackson County Community Outreach, a nonprofit volunteer organization which has awarded $92,000 in scholarships to 91 local graduating seniors since its inception in 1998. Scott also provided the invocation for the banquet.

Volunteer of the Year was presented to Tom Murphy of MURCON.

The Small Business of the Year honors went to Allstate Insurance, accepted by Joel Harbin and Jonathan Milford.

The Large Business of the Year went to TenCate Geosynthetics, and was accepted by Lee Bryan.

Ambassador of the Year is Marshall Acree, who was unable to attend the banquet as he recently underwent surgery but is improving.

New members of the board of directors were presented and thanks were extended to outgoing board members. Outgoing board members include Hunter Bicknell, Bryan Dearing, Erma Denney, Dallas Longworth, Mac McCoy and Roy Stowe.

See the photo gallery below and check back for more updates from the banquet.

Chamber banquet 2013

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