Chamber marks year’s successes

Published 8:00 pm Friday, November 2, 2012

A year filled with successes and another year like it on the way.

     That’s what local business and government leaders celebrated and hoped for during the Brookhaven-Lincoln County Chamber of Commerce banquet Thursday night.

     Outgoing chamber president Doug Boykin said despite an economy “that’s been flat at best,” the chamber membership worked to make 2012 a strong year for local retail.

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     Boykin highlighted Brookhaven’s strong sales tax returns this year and the subsequent regional economic strength of the city.

     Boykin also praised the continuing gains made by the Mississippi Scholars program and spotlighted the success of this year’s Ole Brook Festival, with many vendors reporting high sales and record attendance.

     “Saturday night’s concert was the largest crowd we’ve ever had,” Boykin said.

     Accolades were also heaped on several individuals during the banquet.

     Local government leaders received a nod from the chamber, with two entities garnering the prestigious Soap Box Award.

     Brookhaven Mayor Les Bumgarner and the Board of Aldermen and Chancery Clerk Tillmon Bishop and the Lincoln County Board of Supervisors shared the award this year.

     Brookhaven leaders were honored for their leadership of the Recycle Brookhaven program, while the supervisors were noted for their diligent attention to bridge and road repair.

     The Soap Box Award isn’t given every year, but only when a candidate stands out.

     “Effort has to be given above and beyond,” Boykin said.

     Boykin praised the recycling program aldermen put into place as making the city a leader in the state.

     “This is one of the very few programs like this for a city of this size,” Boykin said.

     Turning to supervisors, Boykin praised them for the work they’ve done this year despite funding cuts by the state.

     “This is something everyone in Lincoln County can be proud of,” Boykin said. “When other counties let it slide, you pushed it through.”

     Bumgarner said he was grateful for the award and underlined the value of recycling for the city.

     “That shows a tremendous amount of progress for a city our size,” the mayor said.

     Board of Supervisors President Nolan Williamson called the Soap Box Award an overwhelming honor.

     “It’s a great feeling,” Williamson said. “I’m just without words.”

     He noted the work of the supervisors the award recognized.

     “In the last two years, they’ve done a lot of work,” Williamson said. “We’ve put in more bridges in than any county in the state of Mississippi.”

     Other awards given included the Agri-Leader of the Year award, snagged by the Lincoln County Forestry Association.

     Lincoln County Extension Service Director Rebecca Bates praised the work of the association to advance forestry, including through its scholarships for youth planning to pursue a forestry career. Greg Knight accepted the award for the association.

     Lincoln County Superintendent Terry Brister received the Educator of the Year Award.

     “He has a genuine concern for the children and the community,” Boykin said of Brister.

     Boykin also mentioned Brister’s leadership as president-elect of the Mississippi Association of School Superintendents.

     Brenda Henderson garnered the Ambassador of the Year Award.

     The Industry of the Year Award wasn’t given this year.

     Another special award was given to honor Pam Cartwright, who’s worked at the chamber of commerce 40 years.

     “I’ve loved every minute of it,” Cartwright said after the banquet.

     Outgoing board of director members Pap Henderson, David Culpepper and Angie Warren were noted. Incoming board of directors members are Donnie Mitchell, Bernie Reed and Brenda Henderson.

     Pat Lowery will take over from Boykin as chamber president. Bill Jacobs will continue a second year as Industrial Development Fund chairman, with Ryan Holmes of Dungan Engineering serving as vice president.

     William “Skip” Scaggs, of the Mississippi Development Authority, was the evening’s keynote speaker. He praised the efforts of Lincoln County to support its industry and emphasized that economic development cannot occur apart from community development.