The 72nd Annual Meeting of the Atmore Area Chamber of Commerce was held Thursday, January 25.
As at all Chamber annual meetings, the highlight was the announcement of the Citizen of the Year, the recipient(s) of the Lifetime Achievement Award, and the most recently added Business of the Year.
Sarah Frances Thompson was emotional as she accepted on behalf of Buster’s. The year had been challenging for the family, and the outpouring of support from the community meant so much, she said.
The Buster’s staff stood offstage with Johnny and Julia Gibbs and Buster Joyner’s namesake, Buster Thompson. Sarah Frances said they closed the restaurant that night to bring all the employees to dinner. She thanked them all, and in particular Mary Kelly, the cook who has “fed every one of you,” she told the audience.
Mayor Jim Staff presented the Lifetime Achievement Award to Coach Cornell and Mavis Torrence, who dedicated themselves to education, athletics and youth programs. They are also founding members of the Progressive Recreational and Civic Club.
Coach Torrence thanked everyone for the honor. Mrs. Torrence said the old saying is true – behind every successful man, there’s a good woman.
Bub Gideons was named the Chamber’s Citizen of the Year. In his brief remarks, Bub said he was honored and that he does what he does for Atmore out of love for the city. Later, he posted these comments on social media: I want to thank all for the words of kindness and congratulations in response to the Citizen of the Year. However, the award really goes to all the Pride of Atmore Committee, city, volunteers, all the valued donors, the entire Pepsi family, and all friends who bought into our Revitalization effort for Downtown Atmore. Including the ones behind the scenes! These are the real Citizens of the Year! THEY are the ones most deserving of all. Thanks again.
Keynote speaker for the evening was businessman and entrepreneur Quint Studer who talked about creating vibrant and solvent communities, using examples of investments in Pensacola.
“Who doesn’t want a great community for their grandchildren to grow up in?” he asked.
Creating a vibrant community does more than increase a tax base; it also creates a place where adult children can find jobs and those who have moved away can come home. Studer said people often thank him – not for his investments – but because their kids don’t have to leave the area to find work, because a daughter has moved back, because there are opportunities here.
‘We’re going places’
Incoming Chamber President Brandy Giger said this will be a year of change, and her speech was the first step, being one of the shortest in memory.
“I’ve got some tough shoes to fill, but what an exciting time to be the Chamber President! Atmore is moving forward and I’m glad that I get the chance to be part of it. This year is all about change, nothing will be the same. Either get on the train or get off, because we’re going places! I hope after tonight you have been inspired to join our efforts in revitalizing downtown Atmore. I hope you leave with the downtown fever. I’ll end with #DiscoverAtmore.”
The #DiscoverAtmore was a popular theme through the evening, with a number of attendees having their picture taken with the sign.
Outgoing Chamber President Chris Singleton also made a short speech. He mentioned enhancing quality of life in our community, then went off script to say that several people had asked him about his term as president ending.
“This is not the time to back up,” he said. “This is the time to step up. Get involved. Get active.”
Many people had their first opportunity to meet the new Chamber executive director, Emily Harp, who addressed the gathering.
“It has been an amazing day four,” she said. She talked about the warmth and love she had encountered and her desire to meet everyone and have a conversation about making Atmore better.