Art Gould was recognized as Man of the Year and Joyce Williams as Woman of the Year during the Mineola Area Chamber of Commerce Annual Banquet and Community Awards Thursday before a packed house at the civic center.
The awards presentation was a short and sweet affair. Honors were also distributed to Jim Phillips as Humanitarian of the Year, Kimberly Witt as Teacher of the Year and Jim Herlocker for the B.R. Ray Short Community Spirit Award.
Cle Walton with the Lions Club presented the Woman of the Year to Williams saying she has had a remarkable impact on Mineola and an impressive career as an educator in the Mineola ISD for two decades as a science teacher. “During this time she assisted in founding Junior Historians and through the years this chapter has assisted the city’s Landmark Commission in historical preservation and education.” She said she also restored the nature trail that opened in the 1970s with help from community volunteers and students.
“With the mountain biking club and the Rails to Trails project, eventually a parcel of land will connect downtown Mineola with the nature preserve. This will be another great addition to our city. Williams’ most recent project is the planning of the Iron Horse Square, a railroad heritage park near the depot. She also worked on requesting a grant from the Meredith Foundation. She has served on city committees and attends New Hope Baptist Church where she has been an active member. “This lady has been involved in the life of the community through education, nature and history… She is certainly dedicated to her hometown and to its people.”
Williams was surprised and humbled and said there were others more deserving of the award than herself. “I don’t feel I’ve served my time. This is something that should be 20 years in the making… but I want to thank you… I never thought much about history until I met Mr. P. and Miss Lou Mallory. They are my mentors. They got me excited about history.” She said the Landmark Commission has some great things going on. “It’s going to be a fantastic project. You wait and see. And free rides on our train,” she said with a big smile.
Jayna Williams, Joyce’s daughter and president of the Rotary Club, presented the Man of the Year award. Before she got started she couldn’t resist with a “Way to go mom.”
She said Mineola’s most prestigious award came from an idea of J. C. Judge who admired characteristics such as humility, integrity and a passion for serving. “Tonight we’re going to honor one man and add him to the ranks of those such as Harry Meredith, Dan Peacock, Lester Cole, James Dear, numerous others and then many who are with us here tonight.”
Williams explained the award is chosen by a cross section of the community through various organizations. “We’re honored tonight to recognize a man who is truly the head of his class in very many ways. He is usually behind the scenes, the example of a humble individual. As a long-time board member for Caring & Sharing he has cared and shared more than his share. He ensures that the aluminum can wagon for Caring & Sharing is emptied and carried to Tyler. He takes a lead role in facilitating the school canned food program and is a devoted cross walk officer, cafeteria volunteer and is always ready to lend a helping hand at Mineola ISD. At the first United Methodist Church he is known as Mr. Dependable... He has been the long-standing head of a ramp building team for the United Methodist Men to see that the handicapped around the area are best served. He is also a volunteer for Meals on Wheels… This is just a short synopsis of the humility, integrity and passion for service from this man who is truly a work of art.”
Loud applause accompanied Gould to the podium. “Well I really wasn’t expecting this. When she was reading some of that stuff I thought, `that sounds like me,’” he said with wonderment. “I know there are many people in the community much more deserving than I am but I feel very honored to have this award.”
On behalf of the Pilot Club, Lorraine Epps called the Humanitarian of the Year, Jim Phillips “selfless, self-sacrificing, bighearted, unselfish, compassionate, kindhearted, social-minded.” She said he is supportive and encouraging of his students. He has the knack of “just being there in good times and bad with just the right words to say.” Epps quoted a former student who said that now that he is starting to face challenges in life, he knows he can make ethical decisions because Phillips prepared him for life.
During the award presentation, Rev. Demethruis Boyd presented Jim Herlocker of Mineola Community Bank with the B.R. Ray Short Community Spirit Award. Boyd called him a friend, “a compassionate and wonderful person.”
“Everybody here knows that Mineola Community Banks really supports this area,” he said, adding Herlocker is an “avid supporter” of “pretty much everybody and everything that goes on.”
Boyd said the Ministerial Alliance’s award for Students of the Year will be presented at a later time.
Kellam Newell, the Kiwanis president, lauded Kimberly Witt of the elementary school as Teacher of the Year, saying, evidence of what Mineola School District’s teachers do is “reflected in the caliber of students that Mineola sends out into the world each year.”
Witt has taught for 25 years, developed and created curriculums and has taught both domestically and abroad. She is “dedicated, inspiring, intentional, and creative.” Witt said that educators try to inspire their students “to want more for themselves. To be more and to try more every day. This is the best hardest job I’ve ever had and I really wouldn’t trade it for anything.”
The evening began with a silent auction that Boyd, the master of ceremonies, announced brought in over $3,000. Outgoing President Becky Moore thanked the community for supporting the chamber with both last year’s and this year’s banquets being sold out. Moore reviewed accomplishments of the chamber during the past year, including hosting quarterly lunches, business seminars and participating in the school’s strategic planning committee and distributing thousands of fliers, brochures, business cards and maps all over the U.S. The entity also welcomed 37 new members. Moore said there were also several day-long sessions developing a strategic plan for the chamber.
Incoming President Vic Savelli spoke of the very diverse board, with representation not only of different races and ethnic backgrounds, but small and large businesses of a variety of types in Mineola. “I’m actually an Italian Yankee,” Savelli admitted, “so that’s actually why I’m here in front of you… I was the only Italian Yankee in Mineola.”
“We’re really pleased with what we have done because we have big plans,” Savelli said. “This is a result of our strategic plan that we put together. I don’t think you need to look hard to discover that the last two presidents and boards have worked the chamber through some very difficult situations the past few years.” He hails from Pennsylvania, although he said that over a period of years he has been in Texas longer than he has been from there.
“I’ve grown to care about Mineola and sometimes I wonder whether our community really realizes what they have in front of them.” Savelli said the rest of Texas and the rest of America are beginning to recognize how special Mineola really is. He spoke of many positive things happening. “So I think there’s basically going to be a gold rush on Mineola. We’re very well-positioned for the future, which is good news for all of us.”
“I give you my pledge that I’m very passionate about Mineola, about doing the right things.” One of his goals is for the chamber to represent its membership to help build business in Mineola.
The chamber building is being renovated and the second floor “that looks like an Oval Office” is being prepared to rent out. He finished telling the business people, if there’s anything he can do to help them or their business, for them to feel free to call him.
Moore honored outgoing Chamber Manager Marianne Eubanks with a plaque and bouquet. Savelli introduced incoming directors Lupita Wisener of Wisener Field Airport, Jerry Richardson of Wood County National Bank, Luke Parrish of Claw Daddy’s and Jason Herring of Cowburners. Outgoing directors Moore, Susan Resnik and Brett Unger were recognized.
The evening also included an extremely entertaining debate by “Donald Trump” (Jason Henderson) and “Hillary Clinton” (Margaret Hill) to “Keep Mineola Great.” At one point Trump explained his plan to build a wall between Mineola and Lindale, for which Lindale would pay, which prompted discussion about how Jalapeno Tree would continue to get its jalapenos. Marcus Casburn returned to also provide a mix of popular favorites.