Chamber recognizes outstanding citizens

Published 12:08 pm Friday, January 25, 2013

Montford-Lynn Peace Officer of the Year recipient Willie Norris Brown, a correctional officer at the Decatur County Prison

Several outstanding members of the community were honored Thursday night, during the 88th annual Bainbridge-Decatur County Chamber of Commerce awards ceremony at the Bainbridge College Kirbo Center.

The Montford Lynn Peace Officer of the Year award went to Decatur County Correctional Officer Willie Norris Brown; the Pilot Club Woman of the Year Award went to Missy Rollins; and the Kiwanis Club Man of the Year award was presented to Bruce Kirbo Sr.

Other award recipients included Clayton Penhallegon as Ambassador of the Year, Palmer Insurance as Small Business of the Year, and Mike Clinton as the Community Service Award winner. Dr. Richard Carvajal, the president of Bainbridge College, announced Michael Middleton as the college’s winner of the Georgia Occupational Award for Leadership award.

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At the conclusion of Thursday’s ceremony, outgoing Chamber chairman Charles Tyson “passed the gavel” to incoming Chamber chairman Scott Ewing.

“I’m really looking forward to another great year,” Ewing said.

Tyson noted that the Chamber added 80 new members in 2012, held 27 ribbon cuttings, and passed out more than $26,000 in “Bainbridge Bucks.” Bainbridge Bucks are gift certificates that can only be spent at local Chamber businesses, guaranteeing the money stays in Decatur County.

In addition, he noted that more than 5,000 people attended River Town Days and more than 7,000 visited the county’s fair. The fair made more than $44,000 in profit, he said.

“The fair is our biggest fundraiser,” Tyson said. “Without the fair, I don’t know if we would be able to operate our Chamber.”

Tyson also expressed his appreciation to the Chamber’s full-time staff of president Dianne Strickland, Kim Walden and Ali Dowdy.

“It’s amazing the amount of work that gets accomplished with such a small staff,” Tyson said. “They make my job easy and I just want to give them a special thanks for everything they do.”


Peace Officer of the Year

Jeff Findley, the publisher of The Post-Searchlight, presented Norris with the Montford Lynn Peace Officer of the Year Award, in recognition of Norris’s bravery in the face of a potentially dangerous situation at the Decatur County Correctional Institute.

On Nov. 8, 2012, Norris was on duty when a fight began to break out in the cafeteria of the county prison. He was able to take control of the dangerous situation, which could have resulted in serious injuries or fatalities if it had been allowed to escalate.

Brown was also selected as the 2012 Decatur County Correctional Officer of the Year.

“I will do my best to continue to live up to these lofty standards,” Brown said, after receiving his award Thursday. “I’m just really thankful for this. This is a day that I will cherish for the rest of my life.”


Man, woman of the year

Kiwanis Club president Chip Davis presented Kirbo, a retired attorney and philanthropist, with the Man of the Year Award.

Kirbo, along with his wife, Cass, helped establish the Bainbridge-Decatur County YMCA and have remained supporters of the organization. The Kirbos are also the directors of the Kirbo Foundation, which has given financial support to many different Decatur County organizations.

Kirbo was the solicitor of the Decatur County State Court from 1955 to 1987, and has previously served as the City of Bainbridge’s and Decatur County Board of Education’s attorney. He has served in a leadership role in many local organizations, including the Bainbridge College Board of Trustees, the Decatur-Seminole Training Center, the Bainbridge Jaycees, the Chamber of Commerce, Habitat for Humanity and Bainbridge First Christian Church.

The other nominees for the award were Joe Davis, Benny Harrell and Mike Harrell.

Pilot Club president Karon Elwell presented the Woman of the Year award to Rollins, the CEO of the Friendship House of Jesus, Inc., which offers after-school enrichment programs to young people.

Rollins is also spearheading an effort to establish a local shelter for homeless women and their children. This shelter is scheduled to open in March, and will be called “Still Waters.”

“It’s wonderful to be a part of this community, because we all come together to help those in need,” she said. “I’m just very thankful for this honor.”

The other nominees for the award were Bridget Collier, Beverly Davis and Sherry Weaver.


GOAL winner, Community Service winner

Carvajal congratulated Middleton with his selection as the GOAL winner, pointing out that Bainbridge College has more than 2,000 students in its technical education programs.

Carvajal said that Middleton drives to Dothan, Ala., every day to work at his full-time job, but then returns to BC to attend classes in his electrical construction and maintenance program.

“He was nominated by his instructor, Claude Bell, who said that Middleton is a leader in the classroom and workplace, and a great representative of Bainbridge College,” Carvajal said. “We agree with that statement whole-heartedly and are thrilled to recognize him here tonight.”

Strickland presented Clinton, the owner of a painting business, with the Community Service Award.

“This year’s recipient may have been flying under the radar of many people, but his actions have not gone un-noticed by others,” she said.

Strickland noted that Clinton has been involved in countless activities, including the United Way’s Day of Action, the Salvation Army, the Chamber board of directors, and as a volunteer at River Town Days and the Decatur County Fair. Strickland said Clinton volunteered 25 hours in a five-day period, during the fair.

Clinton smiled widely as he was presented the award.

“I sure appreciate it,” he said. “I was definitely caught off-guard on this one. I’m just trying to do what I can, when I can. Anytime I can help you, I’ll be more than happy to do what I can.”