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Awards night: Movers, shakers lauded

By Kay S. Pedrotti James Hollis Blackmon, employee of the city of Barnesville since 1977, was named Lamar County’s Outstanding Citizen for 2016 at the chamber of commerce awards banquet Jan. 28. Blackmon’s award was presented by city manager Kenny Roberts, who described Blackmon as a ‘Renaissance man,’ adept at many skills: ‘He’s a carpenter, a mason, a plumber, an electrician, welder, designer, fabricator, mechanic, heavy equipment operator, butcher, baker, grill master …. and an accomplished musician and singer. His expertise in many fields has led to his position as special project manager for every major project accomplished in the city for the past 25 years.’ Blackmon’s accomplishments include building the first animal shelter in 1989; managing implementation of emergency responses in the ‘flood of 1994,’ when 20 inches of rain in 24 hours destroyed the city reservoir and spillway; building the city pool and cabana along with the police department and Ritz Park, and supervising construction of the Barnesville Civic Center. ’These are a few of the major contributions to our community that saved hundreds of thousands of dollars for our citizens and taxpayers, and added to the quality of life in Barnesville,’ the city manager said. The audience seemed to appreciate Blackmon’s acceptance speech: ‘I just want to thank everybody. I’ve been proud to do what I’ve done these last few years.’ The annual event began with the ‘passing of the gavel’ — without a gavel — from 2015 chamber chair Sandy Harris to Stacey Ard, who will be chair in 2016. Ard told the audience that she looks forward to working on some ‘needed changes … one of the first things we’re doing is bringing back Barbecue and Blues.’ That statement drew rousing applause. Ruth Ann Manley Volunteer of the Year Phillip Breedlove presented the Volunteer of the Year Award from the Barnesville Lions Club.The recipient, Ruth Ann Manley, was unable to attend because of illness; her grandchildren Abel Manley and Alexandria Hatten accepted the award on her behalf, speaking lovingly and graciously about their grandmother. Manley was described by Breedlove as ‘part of our country’s greatest generation (whose) life began with hardship and challenges.’ She was a foster child who joined the U.S. Navy at age 19, where she met her husband and they had four children. ’Being widowed at an early age, she was challenged to raise four children by herself,’ said Breedlove. She volunteered at their schools, was active in Jonesboro First Baptist Church and as her children grew older she put in many hours as a ‘Pink Lady’ hospital volunteer. Manley was involved with Little Children of the World after she moved to Barnesville 11 years ago, where she joined the First Baptist Church and immediately went into missions. She served on the Citizens Panel for family court for many years until she stepped down to become a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA): ‘She is passionate about helping children in foster care.’ Other volunteer work Manley loved included Barnesville Women’s League, jail ministry, Lamar Arts, the elementary school reading program, Barnesville Gives365, and the Voice of Veterans, a program of speaking to youth groups and schools to remind students of the role military men and woman play and how their sacrifices affect our lives, Breedlove noted. Donald, Joan Yoder Farmers of the Year Barnesville Farm Bureau Farmer of the Year went to dairy farmer Donald Yoder, his wife Joan, and their 11 children, all of whom work or worked in the dairy, even coming back to help when they had left home, said presenter Ralph Adamson. The Mennonite family has accomplished ‘much more than I did when my dairy was on that same land,’ Adamson said. Yoder has built herds of registered cows producing about 3,000 gallons of milk every other day. Accepting the award, Donald said they were grateful and encouraged anyone, especially school children or other student groups, to come and tour the dairy. Tammie Traylor Merritt Career Woman of the Year ’If I look surprised, I am,’ said Tammie Traylor Merritt, Career Woman of the Year. A family and Rotary Club conspiracy kept her feeding information for a ‘school project’ to grandchildren and believing that her son Ryran would be an award recipient. Kelly Hughes presented the Rotary-sponsored award, noting that church, family and community have been uppermost in Merritt’s life from the time she was growing up in Culloden. A graduate of Hubbard High in Forsyth, Merritt attended college in Oregon and then came home and started a family. She became a Tift College graduate for two reasons, Hughes said, ‘to improve her status on a professional level, and to set an example for her children.’ Her daughter, Tot, told Hughes that even with all her mom had going on, the only role that ever took precedence over being an ‘awesome mom’ was being a loving Christian. Merritt is active in Towaliga County Line Baptist Church and leads the Blessed to Be a Blessing ministry. Her career accomplishments include eight years in the Lamar County school system in administrative positions. Working with William Carter Company, she quickly rose through the personnel staff ranks and finally was in charge of personnel for stores in Georgia, Texas, Mississippi, and overseas. When she supervised a store closing, she did everything possible to find other jobs for those affected employees, Hughes said. Another of her career goals was building lasting relationships with people of different cultures while working for a common goal; the Carter’s Cares community program is one of her legacies. She is involved with many charitable organizations in Lamar County. In her speech, Merritt called the award ‘an example of how good God is, and how blessed I am to live in a wonderful place where people love, and care, and it doesn’t take a regulation to just reach out to each other.’ She closed with, ‘I hope that in some small way I have given back more than I received, and that the great God would look down at least once a day at me and say, ‘˜That’s my child.” Chief Chuck Keadle Law Enforcement Officer of the Year Law Enforcement Officer of the Year, introduced by Maj. Leslie Holmes of the Lamar County Sheriff’s Office, is Chuck Keadle, Chief of Police for the city of Barnesville. Holmes gave background information on Keadle’s career and that of Barnesville PD School Resource Officer Belinda Penamon, who also was a nominee for the honor sponsored by the Dewaine T. Bell Difference Makers. Keadle said he had been ‘real fortunate in my law enforcement career,’ beginning with the city in 1971 and then later holding positions with the LCSO and as an investigator with the District Attorney’s office. He told an anecdote about how a very young Brad White had ridden on his bicycle to a grocery store to help Keadle hand out cards when Keadle ran for sheriff. He said that when White decided to run, he asked Keadle for help and Keadle said ‘yes, on this condition … I won’t ride a bicycle and I won’t hand out cards!’ Keadle noted that he had been privileged to work with ‘three good mayors, Mayor (Jimmy) Matthews, Mayor (Dewaine) Bell and Mayor (Peter) Banks, and a great city manager.’ The city is one of only 118 of 600 police agencies in Georgia to receive accreditation, ‘and I thank God we were able to do that and that I have been blessed by family, coworkers and the city.’ Nathaniel Rooks Firefighter of the Year Fire Chief Steve Andrew presented the Britton Cauthen Firefighter of the Year Award to Nathaniel Rooks. Andrews said when he first knew Rooks, ‘he would hang around the station and watch us, but he always refused to go to training.’ But Steve said he ‘saw something’ in Rooks, ‘so I hung on to him. I’m glad I did because he finally got trained and has exemplified the old-school methods and mentality about firefighting and keeping good rapport with all the firefighters.’ Rooks said, ‘The fire department has been a very good part of my life, and may have kept me out of trouble.’ Andrews also thanked Dr. Gerald and Hedy Cauthen for their support of the fire departments, and expressed gratitude to the many people who prayed for and gave financial support for his grandson Wyatt through medical problems. ‘He’ll be a year old in February and is doing well,’ Andrews said. STAR Student Tempe Korb STAR Teacher Kenneth Roberts STAR Student and STAR Teacher Tempe Korb and ‘Coach’ Kenneth Roberts, were recognized at the banquet with plaques. Ryran Traylor gave the presentation speech on behalf of the Kiwanis Club, sponsors of the award. Korb gave a lot of credit to her parents and older brothers for her academic success, commenting ‘my brothers are amazing .. they provided a lot of inspiration and competition.’ She also said, ‘It’s great to have the kind of dad who says ‘˜it won’t hurt to take the test one more time.” Roberts described Tempe as ‘well-grounded and mature, even as a sophomore; she was not deterred by anything; she is blessed but she never took that for granted, she worked very hard.’ Traylor said when he interviewed Tempe for his introduction, he asked her ‘where do you see yourself in 10 years?’ and loved her answer. ‘I see myself drowning my sorrows, over this massive debt I have from college, in Ben and Jerry’s Phish Food chocolate ice cream,’ she said. Missy Ware Businessperson of the Year Walter Geiger’s introduction of Missy Ware as Businessperson of the Year was a hit with the audience and Missy’s family. He related her skill and willingness to learn — and later to teach others about the business — from the moment 30 years ago when she came into The Herald Gazette to ask for a job. He said ‘she is the conscience of the newspaper’ and is ‘superior in making decisions under pressure and practicing effective crisis management.’ He told anecdotes of her irritation with the whole situation, when the office received an envelope of white powder and was overwhelmed with HAZMAT teams and banned from the building. Geiger said Missy never wavers in what she believes is right, loves her family and her Lord and ‘never said I told you so’ when he put something in the paper against her advice and got criticized. ‘Her family has become part of our family,’ he said. In her acceptance speech, Missy thanked her family and the newspaper staff through the years for ‘the privilege of working at The Herald Gazette.’ To Walter and Laura Geiger, she said, ‘I love you with all my heart.’

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