Demopolis Chamber honors leaders

Published 12:00 am Monday, February 4, 2008

DEMOPOLIS &8212; Dan Wilson, 2007 Citizen of the Year, perhaps said it best when quoting his father: &8220;No one in his life gets there by himself, there is always someone there to help them.&8221; Helping others to achieve great things was the theme of Monday&8217;s 92nd annual Demopolis Area Chamber of Commerce banquet.

Although Smith and Board of Directors chairman Patricia Quinney thanked the many people who help to support Demopolis, the evening truly belonged to the recognized few who received the Chamber awards.

The recipient of the Community Volunteer of the Year award was Tommy Vice. As Smith described him, &8220;He is a mainstay when it comes to volunteering in this community and is the biggest walking commercial for Demopolis that I know of.&8221; Vice has previously been recognized as the top fundraiser for both the American Cancer Society Relay for Life and the March of Dimes, as well as being inducted into the State of Alabama Hall of Fame.

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Smith described the Chamber Volunteer of the Year, Ann Parsons, as someone who had been the chairman of nearly every committee there was.

When describing the Business Volunteer of the Year, Plaza Golf Carts, Smith said she and her organization could count on them for every event they sponsor.

Another business to receive recognition was the Business of the Year, Rock-Tenn. Smith described their contribution to the community as $150 million to the local economy in the form of the purchase of wood, energy, chemicals and payroll. To other organizations in the community, Rock-Tenn has contributed to the Demopolis City Schools, the Christmas on the River and Freedom on the River celebrations and the Chamber of Commerce.

The Citizen of the Year award went to Dan Wilson, who said he was &8220;humbled but never speechless.&8221; Smith described him as one of the most generous people in the area.

Wilson said in his travels around the country, he is always proud to say he is from Demopolis.

For the Lifetime Achievement award, the Chamber recognized Bryan Whit Compton, who is known in the community for both his long military career and his service to the community.

After recognizing the Chamber&8217;s award winners, Agriculture and Industries Commissioner Ron Sparks, the evening&8217;s guest speaker, spoke to the group about the state of Alabama.

Sparks began his remarks by talking about Alabama&8217;s farms, saying an industry that was once 250,000 farms strong in the 1960s has dwindled to nearly 45,000 in 2008.

Sparks discussed mentor programs to encourage youth to get interested in the agriculture field, saying the average age of today&8217;s farmer is 55-years-old. Using the plight of Alabama&8217;s farmers as his main concern, Sparks said the industry is one of the most important, especially for this area with enterprises like catfish and cattle.

In addition to travels all over the world promoting Alabama&8217;s strengths, Sparks discussed his extensive work in places like Cuba, where he has been bringing Alabama products like cotton, medicine and poultry.

Sparks also discussed his views of food safety, citing the recent debacle with Chinese catfish and toy imports. His efforts, Sparks said, began the nation&8217;s investigation into the safety of import products from food to toothpaste.

Sparks also cited Alabama as a leader in the alternative fuels industry, saying the state and the country should continue domestic efforts to reduce dependency on foreign oil sources.

Sparks said Alabama is also a leader, perhaps regrettably, in obesity rates. To combat this Sparks&8217; office worked to get carbonated beverages out of schools and increase physical fitness programs.

After Sparks&8217; comments, the banquet came to a close with the passing of the gavel to the Chamber of Commerce&8217;s next chairman of the board. Outgoing chairman, Patricia Quinney, read the oath to the 2008 Chamber of Commerce Chairman of the Board, Rob Fleming.