Chamber honors five with annual awards
By Jennifer L. Williams
For the Enquirer
The Hartselle Area Chamber of Commerce honored community volunteers and leaders at the group’s annual Meeting and Awards Dinner held at The Witt House June 12.
“It was a joy to see our community leaders be honored and awarded for their selfless devotion to the good of Hartselle,” said Chamber executive director Missy Evans. “I am proud to be part of an organization that is committed to improving the area’s economy and quality of life.”
Ralph Nelson was the keynote speaker of the event. Nelson, who is the CEO of the Rocket City Trash Pandas, shared with the audience his story of choosing North Alabama to build his team. He elaborated on what a great investment it has been due to the economic prosperity and quality of life in the region.
Dr. Thomas Guyton Humanitarian Award
Dr. Milan Dekich, senior pastor at Fairview Church of God in Falkville, was presented the Dr. Thomas Guyton Humanitarian Award for his 40 years of service to the community.
“(Dr. Dekich) never ceases to amaze me with his selflessness and his genuine, authentic heart,” said Brad Sheets, who will serve as chairman following incoming chairwoman Tammy Lott’s term of service and who is pastor at LifeChurch in Hartselle. “I’ve served on mission trips with this man and I tell you, he will outwork any one of us.”
Dekich, who also gave the invocation for the evening, said he was honored and humbled by the award, and he encouraged everyone to get involved in the community.
John J. Sparkman Citizenship Award
Dr. Dee Dee Jones, Hartselle City Schools superintendent, was presented the John J. Sparkman Citizenship Award for her tireless work for HCS students.
“She leads with passion and stands up for what is right, rather than for what is popular,” said local realtor RaJane Hampton, one of three outgoing directors on the Chamber board. “She listens when people from outside have ideas and helps turn those ideas into incredible programs for our students. Under her direction, Hartselle City Schools has launched a very successful Civil Air Patrol Program … and has overseen Tiger Launch, which has proven to be a win-win for our local companies.”
Jones said she knew something was going on when her parents showed up to the event. “I love our kids; I love Hartselle; and I’m just so grateful for the opportunity to serve them and this community,” she said.
E.R. Roberts Business Award
Ann Tucker, longtime owner of Slate Gallery & Framing in Hartselle, was honored with the E.R. Roberts Business Award for her 25 years as a mainstay on Main Street and her commitment to the community.
“She’s probably framed something for everyone in this room,” joked her son, Dr. Mike Tucker, founder of LifeWork Therapy Services and Chamber board director. Tucker said his mother started out in healthcare but bought the framing business in 1995 and has loved every minute of it. “She has that artsy-fartsy gene,” he said.
She has been involved in all kinds of things in the community over the years, including helping to restore the Burleson Fine Arts Center. She recently donated thousands of dollars in prints to help support the art department at Hartselle High School when she retired earlier this year.
She thanked the chamber for her award and said she has enjoyed being part of such a special community. She quipped that she now officially relinquishes her “title as the oldest business owner on Main Street.”
Tommy Ed Roberts Civic Award
Morgan County Sheriff Ron Puckett was named the recipient of the Tommy Ed Roberts Civic Award for his service to the Hartselle and Morgan County communities.
“He has spent his life serving others,” said Hartselle City Councilman Dr. Chuck Gill, an outgoing Chamber board director. “From serving as an EMT in college to serving as an officer and then Hartselle police chief for 12 years … now, he’s restoring a sense of pride to the sheriff’s office.”
Puckett was visibly moved by the award. “I knew Tommy Ed well – I went to school with his daughter,” he said. “It’s really a privilege for me to serve you. This award means a lot.”
English-Walker Ambassador of the Year Award
Cindy Davidson, with Journeys by Design in Hartselle, received the English-Walker Ambassador of the Year Award for her work and dedication as a volunteer with the Chamber.
“She has a true heart for serving others,” said Larry Murphee, the 2019 recipient of the award. “She has served the chamber for several years and has volunteered with events from Depot Days to Teacher Appreciation and City Appreciation, and she has attended many ribbon cuttings and networking events on behalf of the Chamber.”
Davidson said she was honored to be recognized. “I love this community,” she said. “Thank you so much.”
Special Guest Appearance
One Chamber director, Chad Hughey, was not in attendance but sent a video message to the group. Hughey, a State Farm agent in Hartselle, was involved in a severe car accident in Birmingham Oct. 4, 2019. He spent weeks in intensive care and months in the hospital and rehab. He just returned to his home in Hartselle a few weeks ago and is paralyzed from the chest down.
In his message, he thanked everyone in the community for their prayers and support and said he hopes to be back at work and involved in the community soon. “That will be me, riding around in a big ol’ van,” he said with a laugh.
A silent auction was held with the proceeds to benefit the Hughey family, and attendees wrote notes to Hughey to be given to him.
“That’s what makes this town so special, so great,” said Dr. Tucker, a friend who recorded the message at Hughey’s home. “This community really rallies around people when they need it.”
Outgoing Chamber Chairman Grant McKelvey, general manager at Plastic Recyclers Southeast Inc., passed the gavel to new Chairwoman Tammy Lott, branch manager of Redstone Federal Credit Union in Hartselle.
McKelvey said he was proud of the work the Chamber has done during his time as chair, and he is glad the Chamber found new executive director Missy Evans, who started in January. He said a new capital campaign is being set up for the Chamber to do even more for the community.
“Our town is great,” he said, “but it can be so much more.”
Lott said she is excited to be the new Chamber chairperson. “We have a great group of members and volunteers,” she said. “The more people we have engaged, the better for our whole community.”
Three directors – Gill of Morgan Animal Hospital, Jana Downs of Zoey’s Downtown and Hampton of United Country Four Oaks Realty & Auction – completed their terms on the board this year, while Stewart Smallwood of Cerrowire begins his three-year term.