For nearly six decades, the Greater Mount Airy Chamber of Commerce annually has recognized a local person with its highest community honor: The Citizen of the Year Award.
While COVID-19 has changed many things for area residents over the past nine months, including the cancellation of some of the chamber’s biggest annual events, the organization will forge ahead with this award.
Chamber President and CEO Randy Collins just isn’t quite sure how the award will be given, but the fact that it will be given is ironclad. For now, chamber officials need help with public input for the award — and the nominating period for the annual honor closes Nov. 30.
“It’s kind of a Who’s Who”of local leaders, Collins said Tuesday. The first award winner, Joe Johnson Sr., was named Citizen of the Year in 1962, and every year since the chamber has given the honor. Among the names who have received the award are John E. Woltz, Floyd Pike, Jim Grimes, Don Nance, George Summerlin, Floyd Rees, Tanya Jones and Zack Blackmon, Ann Vaughn, Teresa Lewis, Gene Rees, Ed Woltz, Craig and Michelle Hunter, Charlie and Ed Shelton, Catrina Alexander, Robert Moody, and the most recent winner, Curtis Taylor.
“We have had a mix of men and women, there have been times when couples have won. … In 2010, Charlie and Ed Shelton, who are brothers, won for their work in the community,” Collins said.
“Nominees should have clearly demonstrated leadership and hard work that has made Surry County a better place in which to live and work,” according to the nominating form on the chamber’s website.
“The nominee should also be someone who is long overdue for recognition. Careers or backgrounds of nominees should be in the areas of business, industry and public service, but are not limited to these career areas. Executives or employees of non-profit organizations, elected officials or candidates for elected office, and individuals who have previously held elected office are all eligible.”
The list goes on to say a nominee should be a visionary, a highly respected leader, and a community ambassador.
Despite those lofty standards, Collins said it’s not a long, nor involved process, to nominate an individual.
“Ours is not a long drawn-out thousand-word essay on how great this person is,” Collins said. “Really, it’s just ‘tell us what they’ve done’ — it can be as long or as short as people want it to be. Ours is not a complicated Nobel Prize-kind of thing that takes weeks and weeks to send out. Frankly, people could just write something up and extol the virtues of the person they’re nominating.”
Collins, who said the award itself is an important one to the community, said once the nominations are in, he assembles a team of local business and community leaders to go through the applications, giving “serious deliberation” to the nominees before finally choosing one.
Generally, the person or persons receiving the award do not know about it ahead of time, until presented with the honor at the chamber’s annual meeting in January. This year, that may prove difficult with the expectation of continuing limits on public gatherings because of the COVID-19 epidemic.
“We’re trying to figure out how to do an annual meeting in the winter. We really don’t want to do it on a video conference, but we may have no choice,” he said. “The award winner is kept a secret, until the award is presented, and that will be a challenge during a pandemic, but we’re gong to do it. We’re going to figure out a way to do that.”
For those wishing to nominate an individual for the award, the nomination form can be found at https://conta.cc/36JwM0J or by calling Collins at 336-786-6116.