Lamar Main Street Director, Shawna Hodge, emceed the 2012 Lamar Chamber of Commerce annual banquet, held this year at the Cow Palace Inn. A packed house of almost 180 persons were on hand in the inner courtyard for the annual awards and dinner ceremonies.
Bill Wootten presented Honker of the Year to Vincent Gearhart; Jane Felter, a former Citizen of the Year presented that award to Bob and Helen Emick with Don accepting the award on their behalf. The Emicks were nominated for the Citizen award in 1994, but declined the honor at that time; Ron Cook read the nominating letter for Humanitarian of the Year Award, an event which is not necessarily an annual event for the Chamber. Cook related Austin’s multi-year long relationship with the Lamar community. He recapped how Austin purchased the Joe Oliver Shop on North Main Street in 1978 after he had been an employee there for seventeen years, and turned it into Ron Austin Repair Shop. He spoke of Austin’s love of stock car racing, having been a charter member of the Lamar Racing Club back in 1983, and how he remained a long time supporter of racing events. Austin was also a supporter of area youth, sponsoring various varsity sports events, the Boy and Girl Scout organizations, fairs, FFA activities and pie auctions. Austin also developed Ron Austin Motor Sales in the late 1990′s, expanding his business ventures in town.
Cook related how Ron Austin had been diagnosed with ALS, Lou Gehrig’s disease in May, 2010 and the upbeat and positive outlook he continued to display all through his illness, until it claimed his life in December of that year. Ron’s son Cameron, and his father, Leonard, both visibly moved by the emotion of the moment thanked the community for their support over the years and remarked how fortunate they had been to have had a father and a son as good as Ron had been.
Hodge took time to remark that this year was noted as Chana Reed’s 20th year of being associated with the Chamber of Commerce, and the integral part she has played in almost every aspect of Chamber life in the community. Jillian Tinnes, outgoing president thanked her board for their support over the year, noting in her speech some of the past year’s highlights, including a new website, seventeen new business members for the chamber, building a relationship with Lamar Partnership Inc and a memorable 125th anniversary for Lamar this past May.
Axel Thurner, incoming president for 2012 named his theme for his year as, “Interact and Collaborate”, a year that will see overtures made to the other cities in the county for a working relationship to help improve communications and business opportunities. He said he saw his board as, ” door openers, not gate-keepers” for this year. “We should start to work together, not compete against each other,” he added. Thurner said the community will see the start of a mentoring collaboration for area students. “We’re starting a program involving the Chamber, Lamar Community College and the local Workforce center to place students in participating businesses to introduce them to the local business climate.”
The 2012 Chamber board is comprised of Thurner, Denise Carder, Lisa Thomas, Casey McDaniel, Kevin Swanson, Tera Bender, Juan Saldana, Joel Woelk, Renee Beebee, John Conyers and Michelle Crown.
by Russ Baldwin
Photos by Russ Baldwin
Filed under: Business, Chamber/Local Business, community, Economy, Events, Featured, Lamar, The Journal Alert · Tags: Axel Thurner, banquet, Bill Wootten, Chamber of Commerce, Chana Reed, Citizen of the Year, Emicks, Honker of the Year, Interact and Collaborate, Jane Felter, Jillian Tinnes, Lamar, Ron Austin, Ron Cook, Shawna Hodge, Vincent Gearhart