The magic that is Main Street earned Sulphur Springs City Manager Marc Maxwell the honor of being named Citizen of the Year at Thursday night's annual Hopkins County Chamber of Commerce Membership Banquet.
Maxwell, who spearheaded the redevelopment of Main Street from a collection of potholes and drab storefronts into a dazzling, inviting streetscape, was honored for his "inspired vision and an abundance of passion."
Carolyn Stewart was presenter, filling in for 2007 Citizen of the Year Dr. Joe Minter, who was unable to attend due to health problems
“I know you all will join me in wishing Joe a speedy recovery, and if you have time to send him a card, that would be nice, too,” she said before launching into the presentation.
“Everybody loves a magician,” she said. “Whether it's pulling a rabbit from a hat or a David Copperfield extravaganza, it's just a kick to say, 'How did he do that?', because ... they elevate the mundane to the enchanting.
“Our Citizen of the Year for 2008 is something of a magician himself,” she continued. “He does his magic with bricks and mortar mixed in with inspired vision and an abundance of passion, can-do that we haven't seen around here in a long time, but he gets it done, and it's a beautiful thing to see.”
Citizen of the Year guidelines state the recipient may be recognized for a body of work over a series of years that have improved the lives of the people of Sulphur Springs and Hopkins County — a lifetime achievement award, for example.
"Or sometimes it's just the 'Wow!' effect, something that really brings a big bang to the community, creates excitement, changes our way of life in a way," Stewart explained. “Our Citizen of the Year this year would qualify both ways, except it's for the latter one that he is being given this award tonight, for his belief in his project, his inspired vision, his passionate pursuit of the goal, and his energy that he has put forth in making a brand new environment for our city, and elevating it — really — from the mundane to the enchanting.
"He has created a Main Street that we really can be proud of. Marc Maxwell, will you please come up?"
The standing ovation lasted half a minute as Maxwell worked his way up to the podium.
Stewart then told the story of how Maxwell, who earned a degree in business administration from Seattle University, began working in public administration in 1991, serving in a variety of roles — wastewater manager, risk manager, benefits manager, office manager, utility franchise administrator, emergency operations center manager and media liaison.
“Joe Crouch was mayor at that time, and he said it was Marc's ‘people ability’ that really turned the council on, that he really knew how to get along with the people,” Stewart said. “And I think that's worked out just fine, Marc.”
In July of 2007, the Downtown Business Alliance asked the city leaders to apply for the Texas Main Street program
"And the bells and the whistles went off, and Marc said, 'Wait a minute — we can do that better. Just turn me loose,’” Stewart told the crowd of about 420 people. “And the council, in their wisdom, did just that very thing, and he did it better.”
Downtown revitalization is not complete, nor is Main Street — a Farmers Market will begin operating March 21, for one.
The economic situation has “kind of slowed down business development,” Stewart added, but “it's going to be better.”
"Even so, it's such a kick to walk down that beautiful block of Main Street and see it through Marc's eyes, see the bit of magic that he's created in Northeast Texas.”
Maxwell said the award was a complete surprise.
“I really did not see that coming,” he said.
His trademark humility resumed when he began to credit all the other people involved in Main Street and many other successful projects that he has overseen since coming to the city in 1995.
“I'll have to accept this on behalf of our City Council, my wonderful city staff, the Downtown Business Alliance, and the citizens of Sulphur Springs who have put up with this through the whole effort,” he said. “There's a lot more to come, and it's going to be a lot of fun. Thank you very much.”
Citizen of the Year was the final award in a series of honors handed out at the banquet, held every year at the Hopkins County Regional Civic Center.
Caregiver of the Year
The first award of the night, Caregiver of the Year, was presented to Albert Reeves Sr. by Pansy Bell, representing the Pilot Club, which sponsors the award annually to recognize someone who gives of their time to care for an individual with a brain-related disorder or disease. Bell read the letter of nomination sent in by the Sunday school class Reeves attends.
“I would like to introduce you to a special gentleman who gives every hour of the day to care for his wife. He's the sole provider and caregiver for his wife, who's been diagnosed with Alzheimer's. They live in the Arbala community, and they're faithful members of Brashear Baptist Church and members of our Sunday school class. They're in attendance every Sunday.
“He is such a patient man, and so gentle and caring for the love of his life. He never leaves her side. He always makes sure his shoulder touches hers, and he puts his arm around her to gently nudge her. It is a beautiful sight to see. Both always have a smile on their face for everyone they meet, and they totally rely on God for all their needs.
“He does the grocery shopping with her by his side, prepares all the meals, takes care of all her needs and keeps the home in order.
"Every morning they pick up their two granddaughters and take them to school, then pick them up in the afternoon. This is not a chore for them, but a great joy.”
Growth and Renewal Award
Rita Edwards, president of the Downtown Business Alliance, presented a new award, the Growth and Renewal Award, which is to be given to "an individual, business or entity that has gone above and beyond the call of duty to help in the revitalization of downtown."
There were three strong finalists for the award, she said, and they looked at the dedication, support, efforts and accomplishments toward revitalization of each nominee, Edwards said.
“The winner has proven to be one of the most energetic, dedicated, passionate and determined people I have ever met,” Edwards said. “She's one of those people that when you give them a task, they attack it full force — you just stand back and let the dust fly.
"She's a founding member of the Downtown Business Alliance, and a very important part of the Downtown Business Alliance. I'm very proud to not only call her a co-member, but a very good friend. The 2009 Growth and Renewal Award goes to a very deserving Billie Ruth Standbridge."
As they did for each award recipient, the crowd stood as one and applauded long and loud for Standbridge.
Ambassador of the Year Award
Carolyn McKinney presented the Ambassador of the Year Award to Cecile Blount
Chamber Ambassadors act at the public relations arm of the Chamber, and members earn points for signing up businesses, attending ribbon-cutting ceremonies and for other duties, with the Ambassador earning the most points at the end of the year receiving the award.
"But the individual receiving this tonight goes beyond just adding up her points,” McKinney said. “She goes the extra mile. She is always participating in everything we do. She always has a smile on her face. She never complains, she never criticizes, she works hard, and she goes the extra mile because she cares about her community."
“It is my honor tonight to present the honor of Ambassador of the Year to Cecile Blount.”
Community Pride Awards
Eighth Judicial District Judge Robert Newsome presented Community Pride Awards, sponsored by the 1994 Adult Leadership Class, to Bryan Burney for his work in youth sports, and to Sulphur Springs Wildcat head football coach Greg Owens, who accepted the plaque on behalf of the state championship team, coaches, and the entire SSHS ath letic department.
Burney has given of his time and talents for many years so that youths may have the opportunity to play organized sports, Newsome said.
“He's been helping youths in basketball for 28 years,” Newsome said. “Each year he not only organizes the youth basketball league but also recruits coaches, referees and scorekeepers while making up schedules, ordering uniforms and sponsoring teams. He also sponsored Hoop Dreams for handicapped children.
Burney has also been heavily involved in youth baseball for many years, both as a coach and commissioner.
"His goal is to make sure that every boy and every girl in Hopkins County has the opportunity to play organized sports. This man has been a true friend t our youth, and is truly deserving of this Community Pride Award,” Newsome concluded.
The judge then recalled how Greg Owens came to the Wildcats three seasons ago, when the team lost more games than they won. The next season they made an early exit from the playoffs.
"Following that season, it was reported that the players and coaches worked harder than ever before in the spring and throughout the summer at conditioning and skills training,” Newsome said.
After a strong showing in the regular season, the when the playoffs began, “they actually seemed to be stronger and more mature with every single game,” Newsome said, adding that every Friday, Chuck King presented an inspirational talk, using sports and character-building stories to bring out the best in these athletes and coaches.
“When the season came to an end with the Wildcats winning the 4A state championship, it was obvious that we not only had a tremendous football program, but these players had developed great character, leadership and integrity,” Newsome said, adding the award was going to “the football team, its coaches, the entire athletic program and high school.”
Educator of the Year
Educator of the Year went to Shari Mohl, licensed specialist in school psychology for Sulphur Springs ISD.
Presenter Don Sapaugh said Mohl is “someone who kind of deals with difficult issues in our district ... students with learning and behavioral problems, students with sensory disorders. She helps with socialization skills, intervening during crisis situations, has to think outside the box to try to serve our students.”
Mohl is the kind of educator who “takes her job to the house.”
“Teachers take papers home sometimes. This lady, she takes a kid home,” Sapaugh said. “She'll have a party for him, maybe she'll help him with Christmas, maybe she'll help them get a GED.
“She understands that there is no substitute in building trust and in investing time to develop a change for a better child in our community,” Sapaugh concluded. “She has a passion for the kids in our community like no other.”
Agriculturist of the Year
Agriculturist of the Year was presented to Morgan Anderson, a fourth-generation dairyman who is farming on land that has been in his family more than 100 years. His father, Herbert, won the award in 1973 and 1983.
“He started his own dairy in 1985, right after graduating High School,” said Gary Spraggins with Hopkins County Professional Ag Workers Association, which sponsors the award. “A lot of his buddies were getting new cars. He got some holstein heifers.”
The dairy industry has been up and its been down, but Anderson always found a way to make it work for him and his family.
"Several years ago, he began cutting and packaging silage for local dairymen. Before long, he was in Greeley, Colorado, doing silage work — he just expanded out from Hopkins County,” Spraggins said.
He recently began doing dirt work for other farmers, while keeping his own dairy going. That includes his wife, Kim, a son, Lane, 16, and two daughters, Kaylie, 13, and Lexie, 10.
“They've napped in the tractor and fed a baby calf or two,” Spraggins said. “Morgan's often said that working and living on a farm is the best place to raise children.
“This past Christmas they opened up presents, then all three children went to the barn with Dad to help get everything fed,” he added.
Before announcing the award winner, Spraggins, who serves on the City Council, had a few personal words for the audience, speaking about the heart attack and subsequent surgery.
“A lot of you know I had a little triple bypass five weeks ago,” Spraggins said, “and I want to thank you, the community, for all your prayers. The past five weeks, I have been held in the father's arms, and it's because of all the prayers. The prayers were felt — I felt them all.
“So thank you very much — it's good to be here tonight.”
Lady of the Year
Beta Sigma Phi’s Lady of the Year was Wanda Galyean, who accepted the award from Pam Hollingsworth.
“She has been described as hard working, dedicated, a great organizer, caring, warm, intelligent and humorous,” Hollingsworth said.
Galyean has worked extensively with the Hopkins County Memorial Hospital Auxiliary, serving as chair of the Lights of Life campaign and Gala. She is a member of Pilot Club, Junior Waverly, Mothers Culture Club, and leader in the youth "Wow" group at First Baptist Church, among other things. And she finds time to do all this while making several trips a week to Gilmer to be primary caregiver for her mother, 94.
"If Sulphur Springs is a shining city on a hill, then I believe this lady is supplying some of its brightest lights,” Hollingsworth said. “We are very fortunate in this community to have such a gracious lady.”
Small and Large Business of the Year
Small Business of the Year went to the Millennium Shopper, and Large Business of the Year was Northeast Texas Farmers Co-op.
Founded in 2000 in Greenville, the Millennium Shopper, headed by Joy Wilson, moved to Sulphur Springs in 2002. The business employs four full-time workers and six part-time employees, producing a weekly publication distributed from Sulphur Springs to McKinney and towns in between.
Northeast Texas Farmers Co-op originated to serve cotton farmers in 1939, but evolved to bolster the dairy industry and now serves a diversified clientele. The member-owned business employs 90 people and has 4,000 members. Locations in Sulphur Springs, Greenville and Canton provide farm supplies and a complete feed mixing and commodity division.
The company serves customers in Hopkins, Hunt, Kaufman, Upshur, Camp and Van Zandt counties, as well as promoting such entities as the junior market show and sale, Dairy Festival and Fall Festival, 4-H and FFA, school activities, the Extension service and others. Brad Johnson, general manager, and Harold Bryant, chairman of the board of directors, accepted the award.
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