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Jackson County Chamber honors citizens Featured

  • Written by 
The recipient of the Leadership Jackson County Excellence in Leadership Award was Mr. Rick Pettis. The recipient of the Leadership Jackson County Excellence in Leadership Award was Mr. Rick Pettis.

The Jackson County Chamber of Commerce held its 90th annual banquet last Thursday night at Rivertown Community Church with hundreds in attendance.  Executive Director Tiffany Garling welcomed everyone and turned to Dr. Michael Bennet for the invocation and Pledge of Allegiance. 

Garling then recognized elected officials attending the meeting, the Chamber Ambassadors, Michael Smith and the team at Artistic Designs, Paul Smith, Angie Cozart, and the RCC staff for their work preparing for the banquet. She thanked the sponsors who made it all possible.

The awards began with the recognition of the individuals who had completed all the requirements of Leadership Jackson County Program and qualified for Graduation as the Class of 2017.  Those are Will Arroyo, Jeffrey Basford, Dr. David Bouvin, Candace Croft, Wilanne Daniels, Rhondan Gray, Amy Hill, Rachel Holloway, Kenny Keith, Nikki Mayberry, Nichole Mayo, Lindsy Milton, Marc Tomlinson, and Nichole Ussery.  

The next award was the leadership award and those nominees were Dr. Sarah Clemmons, Chipola College, Mr. Ernie Padgett, Jackson County Board of County Commissioners, and Mr. Rick Pettis, David Melvin. 

Garling said, “The recipient of the Jackson County Excellence in Leadership Award should be an individual whose ideas, vision and hard work, thru leadership roles in their profession or with civic activities, achieved significant, tangible benefits to the community and improved the quality of life for the people in Jackson County within the past year”.

The recipient of the Leadership Jackson County Excellence in Leadership Award was Mr. Rick Pettis. 

Rick was nominated for his loyalty and dedication to Jackson County. His vision and leadership is always apparent in his efforts to promote economic development within the County.  As a certified planner, his vast knowledge of economics, land use and development plays a vital role in lobbying for major developers to locate here.  Over the past year, Rick has assisted in promoting the AL/FLA Mega-Site in Campbellton.  His vision is to attract key developers to the County in order for locals to be able to pursue careers, not just jobs.  Rick is a person of character and is most deserving of this honor.    

The next award was presented by outgoing Chairman Darwin Gilmore for the Arthur L. Kimbrough Board Member of the Year Award.  This award is presented to the board member who has exhibited excellent leadership qualities as well as going above and beyond to advance the mission of the Chamber. This year’s award went to Gene Strickland.  In 2017, Gene served as Chair of the Government Affairs Committee helping to revitalize the important advocacy efforts of the Chamber. Gene’s efforts have helped create a solid legislative agenda and strengthen relationships with state and federal officials.

The final award was presented by past chair Shareta Wright for the Citizen of the Year Award. Those nominated were Raymond and Barbara O’Quinn, Ronstance Pittman, Jane Powell, and Keith Williams.

Wright said of the recipient, “The individual selected for the Citizen of the Year Award this year led the effort to protect Jackson County’s water supply by preventing the installation of a Waste Water Deep Well Injection System at the Waste Management treatment facility near Campbellton. They effectively called out the issue, made it public, organized numerous citizen meetings and community forums, engaged the media, prompted political involvement at the municipal, county, and state level, and navigated/negotiated the process over many months to a successful conclusion satisfactory to both citizens at large and local/county government. Hundreds of citizens from virtually every community in Jackson County showed up and let their voice be heard because of their efforts.

Also, over the past year this individual has been very involved with activities surrounding the West End of Marianna. This individual has been part of the initial committee established to address economic and community development for the West End. They helped identify specific projects, and development types that were needed and should be targeted. This individual has been one of the only citizens that follow up and monitor the status of the American Planners Association development plan for the West End Corridor Project, development of a Master Plan for Penn Avenue, from Highway 90 South to Interstate 10.

This year’s Citizen of the Year is Ronstance Pittman.  

The keynote speaker was introduced by David Melvin.  A native of Wisconsin, Mike Schmitz has been widely known and admired in the Wiregrass region  as  a  successful  businessman  and  active  community  leader  for 40 years.  In 1978,  Schmitz  founded  Mike Schmitz Automotive  Group  and  has  since been  named  by  TIME  Magazine  as  one  of  the  top  50  Auto  Dealers  in  the  United States.  In addition to this honor, his successful business conglomerate has won numerous awards including the 2012  and  2016  Mercedes-Benz  Best  of  the  Best Award  which  was  awarded  to  Mercedes-Benz  of  Dothan.

Prior to  being  elected  Chairman  of  the  Dothan  City  Board  of  Education  in  2017, Mike  Schmitz  served  as  Mayor of Dothan, AL for eight years  – winning  the  mayoral election  with  an  historic  margin  of  86  percent  of  the  voters  in  virtually  every  demographic.  As  Mayor,  Schmitz  worked  tirelessly  for  the  region’s  economic  development  and  is  proud  that  the  fiscal  strength  of  the  city  continues  even  after  his time  in  office.  As  a  result  of  sound  financial  management,  Standard  and  Poor’s gave  Dothan  one  of  its  highest  ratings  for  bonds  for  a  city  of  its  size,  indicating that  the  City of Dothan  is  financially solid.   Under Schmitz’s  tenure,  3,000  jobs  and $500  million  in  private  industrial  development  has  come  to  Dothan.  He credits the community for all  the  accomplishments  he  has  achieved.

Adopted  at  age  five,  Chairman  Schmitz  also  has  a  passion  for  child  advocacy,  as evidenced  by  many  of  his  personal  endeavors  such  as  leading  a  city-wide  campaign  against  illiteracy,  assisting  in  building  parks  in  a  disadvantaged  section  of town,  and  providing  funding  for  numerous  organizations,  including  the  Exchange Center  for  Child  Abuse  Prevention.

A 20-year  competitor  in  the  Ironman  Triathlon,  Schmitz  combined  his  love  for  fitness   and   public   service   in   2006,   when   he   bicycled   cross-country   over   3,000 miles  from  the  Pacific  to  Atlantic  to  raise  $100,000  for  the  Wiregrass  Children’s Home.   He was  joined  by  three  other  former  Chamber  of  Commerce  Chairmen  for this  incredible  endeavor.  Schmitz and his son, Mike Schmitz Jr., recently climbed Mt.  Kilimanjaro  and  in  2015  the  two  hiked  the  El  Camino  de  Santiago  (The  Way  of St.  James) -  a 500-mile trek over the Pyrenees mountains.

In  2015,  Schmitz  was  inducted  into  the  Dothan  Business  Hall  of  Fame.  He  has  also been   the   recipient   of  numerous   service   awards   including   the   Freedom   Friend Award   from   the   NAACP,   the   Alabama   Education   Association’s   Public   Servant Award,  the  Dothan  Fire  Department’s  Community  Partnership  Award,  the  United Christian  Fellowship  Good  Samaritan  Award,  the  Paul  Harris  Fellow  Award  presented   by  the   Dothan-Houston   County  Rotary,   and   he   has   been   a   member  of Leadership  Alabama.  He also  served  as  Chairman  of  the  Wiregrass  Area  United Way.

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