For several reasons, Monday’s annual Chamber of Commerce banquet promises to be an exciting event.

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, February 7, 2006

For starters, this year’s guest speaker is former Demopolis native and former director of the Food and Drug Administration Lester Crawford. Several awards to recognize outstanding citizens will also be handed out.

But, most of all, the event is a way to say thanks. Former Demopolis Area Chamber of Commerce President Jay Shows said the banquet is a great way to reward people for their hard work and good deeds.

“The Chamber banquet is really a celebration more than anything,” Shows said. “It is the Chamber’s way of showing their appreciation to their members and acknowledging Chamber and community volunteers for their contributions. You can never say thanks to the people that volunteer their time and efforts enough.”

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The banquet always draws big numbers, but this year’s speaker has generated even more interest. Chamber President Kelley Smith said everyone is eager to welcome Crawford home.

“We are very excited about our speaker because he is from Demopolis and he has received numerous awards and has been Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration,” Smith said. “We are really looking forward to what he has to say.”

Chamber Chairman Alex Braswell said he is also looking forward to Crawford’s visit.

“It isn’t everyday that you get someone who has been the head of the Food and Drug Administration,” Braswell said. “His being local makes it even more special.”

Crawford was confirmed by the Senate to be FDA Commissioner on July 18, 2005. Previously, he was Chair of the Department of Physiology-Pharmacology at the University of Georgia, Administrator of the Food Safety and Inspection Service (USDA) and Deputy Commissioner of FDA. From 1997-2002, he was Director of the Center for Food and Nutrition Policy at Georgetown University and at Virginia Tech, where it moved in 2001.

Crawford has played major roles in mandatory nutrition labeling, the formation of the World Trade Organization and the control of chemical and microbiological contaminants of food. He has been an advisor to the World Health Organization of the United Nations for much of his career.

The evening will end with multiple awards recognizing citizens who give tirelessly of themselves. The Chamber has been flooded with nominations, Smith said, all of which described people worthy of recognition.

“When we looked at all of our nominations, they had all gone above and beyond the requirements,” Smith said. “We look forward to seeing the looks on their faces when we give them their awards.”

Braswell agreed. He said it was tough to have only one winner.

“It was difficult this year,” Braswell said. “We have so many people doing so many great things in Demopolis. But, we are really excited about giving out the awards.”

The evening’s events begin at 6 p.m. with a silent auction. The banquet will begin at 7 p.m. For more information, call the chamber at 289-0270.