Chamber of Commerce Ambassadors will host a special Business After-Hours Mixer Thursday. Ambassadors include left to right: (front) Jackie Thornton, Lela Radney, Cecile Blount and Lynda Hager; (back) Rex Morgan, Kristen Ivey, Charlotte Baxter, Anada Jones, Carolyn McKinney, Bob Weaver, Randall Voss, Treva Watson and James Hulen.

Bye-Bye to Billy Sam

Special after-hours mixer Thursday will be last official Chamber event for outgoing president Bill Elliott

From Staff Reports

May 25, 2008 - Hopkins County Chamber of Commerce members will be honored Thursday with a special after-hours mixer by the Chamber's Ambassador Club.

The Business After Hours Mixer is being hosted for Chamber members as a show of appreciation for all they do for the community, the time and contributions, according to Chamber President Meredith Caddell.

All Chamber of Commerce members are invited to attend the supper, which will be held from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. May 29, at the Chamber office.

While there is no cost for the supper, those planning to attend are asked to contact the Chamber at 903-885-6515 by Tuesday, May 27, to let them know the number of people they're bring so the Ambassador Club can get a good head count for planning purposes.

The menu includes hot dogs, hamburgers, cake, ice cream "and fun," according to Caddell. It's also a great networking opportunity for Chamber members, according to Caddell.

The event will also be Billy Sam Elliott's last official event as Chamber president. After 16 years, Elliott decided last year that it was time to step aside and leave the work to energetic newcomer Caddell.

"It's a chance to show appreciation to Chamber members and to Billy Sam, over hot dogs, ice cream, cake and burgers. It's going to be a fun event," Caddell said.

Elliott said that of the many projects he's had the good fortune to be part of during the last 16 years, the things he's most proud to of are the High School Leadership Class and the growth and promotion of the equine industry in Hopkins County.

"I'm proudest of the Leadership Class. To date there have been more than 300 county and city kids come through the program. Of those, we've had 24 that are now employed here as teachers," Elliott said. "The biggest thing has been the equine movement into the county. There have been a lot more horses come in that were not here before."

Elliott has been on the ground floor of countless projects and served on numerous boards and groups throughout the community. A few have included the North East Texas Beef Improvement Organization (NETBIO), sparked from an idea by Dwight Bell; Northeast Texas Mobility Council; South Sulphur Regional Development Council; Northeast Texas Economic Development Corporation; and Ark-Tex Council of Governments.

He also served nine years on Sulphur Springs ISD school board and got the Chamber involved in the annual Law Enforcement Dinner, which he hosts every year on his property. He said he'd like to continue to offer the use of his grounds for the event, if the Chamber will continue to sponsor it, as a thank you for all the service from the many branches of law enforcement and justice system in the county.

When he first started work at the Chamber, Elliott worked with Mike Elliott (no relation) who drew the Chamber logo still in use today.

The annual Hopkins County Stew Contest also grew to involve about 115 cooking teams during his tenure, compared to about 20 when he first started. The Texas State Champion Homemade Ice Cream Freeze-Off was also started by Elliott and grew to include large numbers of participants. Both have been featured on Food Network programs.

Elliott said that while many things have been accomplished during his time with the Chamber of Commerce, it was a collaborative effort from all Chamber members, the community and local media.

He predicts things will only continue to grow and flourish with Caddell heading the Chamber.

"The membership has been supportive of me, and I expect them to do no less for Meredith. I'm thankful to the newspaper and radio station for all the support they have given. Y'all have been great. We're extremely fortunate to have such great media," Elliott said.

"I'm leaving things in good hands. I didn't get to pick my replacement, but if I did It would have been Mrs. Meredith. Thirteen applied and she's just top notch," he said.

Caddell joked that while she's been working with Elliott, learning the job and gradually assuming more responsibility all the time, she still plans to keep Elliott's number handy for reference, just in case.

Elliott said that's fine with him -- he'll still be around in the community to help her answer any questions that might crop up. But based on Caddell's performance already, he suspects she can handle whatever might crop up.

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