A standard has been set years ago by this organization and Friday, April 23 confirmed the tradition. The theme was “Hawaiian Nights,” the guests were donned in multitudinous shades of bright cheerful colors. Christy of the Chamber and the greeters were familiar and friendly. Shortly after entering the ballroom there was a welcoming table manned by a smiling Bruce Wright and lovely Farrah Harper in a bright blue tropical print dress. This duo offered complimentary wine or margaritas.
Awards are top on the list at this affair. The Citizen of the Year Award began with the Liberty Chamber of Commerce in 1964. When the Dayton and Liberty chambers merged in 1977, the name became the Liberty-Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce, Inc. Since then, a recipient has been selected from each community. The nominee must be a resident of Liberty or Dayton or the surrounding area and be at least 21 years of age. The nominee must demonstrate leadership, valor, or exemplary service to our community. They must also demonstrate strong community involvement and volunteerism. Their merits cannot be limited to occupation.
Liberty’s Citizen of the Year is Dennis Beasley. He came to Texas from Colorado. He attended high school in Alvin just two grade levels behind former Astros hurler Nolan Ryan. In 1965, he moved to Liberty and by 1967 was a notable trombone player. He assisted during disasters and train car accidents. He was an advocate for the Port of Liberty. In 1999 he gave more back, ran, and won a city council position and is still on there 22 years later. He helped build the levy and was part of the group responsible for bringing Boomerang to the area. He is particularly proud of the new police department building. He was instrumental in attaining LFD’s first ladder truck. Working at LFD for 34 years Williams became Assistant Chief. He says, “you have to get your hands dirty…must get involved.” He is recovering from a triple bypass. His award was accepted by his son Troy, who also had his dad viewing online. The award was announced by last year’s recipient and fellow Liberty City Council Member Diane Huddleston Driggers.
The Dayton Citizen of the Year is C. D. Williams. Williams serves as teacher and board member at Dayton First Assembly of God. He volunteers his time on the Dayton Community Development Corporation board and the Dayton ISD Board of Trustees. He is a singer and performer and frequents Dayton ISD events treating staff and students to his talents. Williams, his wife, and relatives have raised over $300,000 for neuroblastoma research. He is often seen delivering care packages to Texas Children’s Hospital for the little ones he calls “superheroes fighting against cancer.” A soul stirring prayer was rendered for relief from Cancer and peace in our world. The clergy knows this battle personally due to losing his own son. He founded the Ryan “Batman” Williams Foundation for his late son.
Food was fabulous. Every kid ate. Jr ROTC ate. They have helped for years and do a fine job from start to finish. Mr. Ken Owens, who works in Kingwood, prepared the meal, and insisted each student eat the same meal consisting of beef and chicken fajitas, Mexican Rice, Charro Beans, Tortillas, and Cheesecake sponsored by Milam.
Lifetime Achievement Awards were bestowed upon Bill Haynie, longtime local businessman. This award was presented to him by Jenna Brett. Certainly, well known throughout the region, Mr. Haynie replied, “this is generous and a surprise that I appreciate very much! In 64 years of business, I tried to do the right thing!”
Longtime KSHN Radio Owner/Personality Bill Buchanan was presented his Lifetime Achievement Award by his former employee Ross Norwood. Buchanan has long used the airwaves to play pleasing tunes and deliver our local news; he has been so generous to non-profits during the years.
Popular Lone Star Law was on the scene. Game Warden Mike Boone, with over 29 years’ experience is now working in Hardin County. He has a wealth of information and stories; some of which he shared with the banquet guests. Guests could ask questions. This opened the topics to a wide range. The Game Wardens were knowledgeable and amiable. Also sharing with the crowd was local Game Warden Jake Noxon. Questions were posed about big cats. GW Boone said to compare the animal to something familiar like a bush. When a sighting of a big animal occurs, ask how large the animal was when compared to the bush or shrub? The assemblage was either informed or reminded that the Timber Rattlesnake is no longer on the protected species list. An individual must have a hunting license to hunt them unless they are defending their home. Where are alligators? Hmmmm. The answer to that is everywhere there are waterways.
Cindy Burchfield of Daisetta City Council was moved to present a special recognition to Donna and Kerry Cain both of Daisetta. They are responsible for the Daisetta Pavilion. Burchfield was extremely emotional as she recanted how the town wanted something positive on the main road. The Cains made it happen.
Sara Rucka was presented an award by Dave “Show Dog” Chessher, who alternated between being MC and entertainment with his usual charm and humor. Dave and Sara are regular dance partners at Relay for Life. A highly traditional portion of the program was performed by Past Chairman Candy Rucka, who passed the gavel to Present Chairman Melissa Richards. The souvenir giant gavel welded and surrendered by Show Dog was donated by State Representative Ernest Bailes.
Chamber Secretary Andrew Landry quite proficiently officiated portions of the program as well.
It was also clear to see the hand and even person of Mrs. Mary Anne
Campbell, who is no longer on the board, but is always in motion. She was presented with an appreciation gift.
The acknowledgement of the passing of three people who were former citizens of the year was made. They were John J. Hebert (Liberty 1983), Joe Harris (Dayton 1976), and State Representative John Otto (Dayton 2011).
Sponsors for the banquet were as follows:
• Event/Title-Liberty Dayton Regional Medical Center
• Diamond-TAYCo Farms
• Platinum-Clearent Credit Card Processing, Sullins & Johnston, Attorneys at Law, PC Gold-Allegiance Bank, Dayton Electric Co., Entergy, First Liberty National Bank, Houston Methodist Baytown Hospital, Magnolia Place Health Care, Resale Shack, River Rock Resort, Texas First Bank, Thrif-Tee Food Center, Truckville Auto Dealers in Sour Lake, Texas, Whataburger
• Silver-Allison Funeral Service, Bill Buchannan & Tiffany York Families, CenterPoint Energy
• Bronze-Mobiloil Credit Union, Superior Storage, Van Deventer Realtors
The Chamber is particularly appreciative to Ken Owens Catering, Dayton Police Department, City of Dayton, Dayton Community Center Staff, Marine JROTC Color Guard and Cadets, Andy Waldrop, host of Solid Gold radio program on Houston Radio Platinum, for providing the theme music for the evening, Brookshire Bros-Liberty (wine sponsor), Allison Funeral Service and Milam Tire & Auto (margarita sponsors), Walmart-Liberty (dessert sponsor), Bluebonnet News, The Vindicator, and The Liberty Gazette (publicity and coverage), Sharon Sullivan (many volunteer hours at the Chamber), A Chamber friend, Liberty County Farm Bureau, Ann’s Seafood, City Florist of Liberty, Allegiance Bank, and Baytown Seafood (door prizes).
Director Stephanie Bloom closed the night with a powerful rendition of “God, Bless America!”