Fayette Chamber honors leaders

Tue, 01/27/2009 - 5:01pm
By: Carolyn Cary

Whiteside 'Business Person of the Year'

The Fayette County Chamber of Commerce held its 42nd annual banquet last Saturday evening, with nearly 200 members attending.

The Dreambuilder Award was begun in 2002 by then chair, Mike Hofrichter. It is given to an individual(s) who has contributed to the community and the chamber over a long period of time.

It goes to someone who has selflessly given of their time and talents to make a difference in Fayette County and whose community spirit and dedication has shown in their words and deeds.

The award is a stunning five-inch engraved glass prism.

Recently retired Fayette County sheriff of 32 years, Randall Johnson, was this year’s recipient.

Said outgoing Chamber Chairman Pat Murphy, “This year’s award has an added meaning because it is being given to an incredibly deserving public servant. He had been returned to the sheriff’s office here eight times and has been selfless in his devotion to his native county.”

The Business Person of the Year is chosen by those business persons who have previously received the award.

Last year’s recipient, Jim Fulton, gave the specifics of the award-winner for this year.

“The business that our recipient operates has grown over 600 percent during their tenure, both in terms of revenues and assets. It is consistently one of the top five taxpayers in Fayette County and consistently ranks in the high 90 percent range in surveys of customer satisfaction,” Fulton said.

Called front and center was Michael Whiteside, recently retired as president and CEO of the Coweta-Fayette Electric Membership Cooperative. He retired with 25 years at its helm.

Sam Williams, president of the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, was the speaker for the evening.

He commented that Fayette County has a very strong record of success: its population has a 70 percent growth since 1990, its unemployment rate is 1 percent below state average, it houses a number of big-brand employers such as NCR and Panasonic, and has a fantastic quality of life. “I am curious though,” he said, “to understand why you need a driver’s license for golf carts.”

Williams added that one of the most important economic factors is the Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.

“It is the ultimate economic multiplier. While the Olympics gave us worldwide recognition, Delta’s route structure makes Atlanta the most connected city on earth.”

“For every one job Delta has here, it is creating 100 through its route structure. It serves more than 170 domestic flights and more than 80 international destinations from Atlanta. This is one of our strongest core assets.”

“Leaders make the difference,” he concluded, and you have been blessed. Don’t forget though, to train the next generation through your fine program, Leadership Fayette. Encourage your member companies to allow employees to run for school boards, city councils, or the county commission.”

The late Chet Wells was a big chamber volunteer in the mid 1970s and one of the awards is in his name. It is given to the individual who was dedicated to participating in chamber activities or volunteered on behalf of the chamber in the community.

The person chosen this year was Bob Reese, a partner in the local firm of Accounting Resources.

“He is a man of many talents,” said outgoing chair, Pat Murphy. “We are fortunate that he has shared many of them as a member of our board of directors.”

At the many functions throughout the year, you will see a dozen or so people in red coats. These are its ambassadors and they must buy their own red coat, and pay their own way to events in which they represents the chamber.

The individual chosen as the hardest worker of them all this past year was Victoria Hughes, from Comcast Spotlight.

Murphy said that at chamber functions the ambassadors are the first to arrive and the last to leave. Hughes was chosen for her humor in all parts of her life and being so dedicated and hardworking at this volunteer job.

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