Four nominated for Kiwanis Club Man of the Year

Published 4:56 pm Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Four nominations have been presented to the Bainbridge Kiwanis Club, one of whom will be chosen as Man of the Year. Announcement of the winner will be made Thursday night, June 8, at the annual Bainbridge Chamber of Commerce awards night at the Kirbo Center.

The four nominees are: Judge A. Wallace Cato, Michael Jarrett, Brian Lewis and Billy Ward. Due to the number of nominees and the length of some of the letters, excerpts from each have been chosen that speak directly to their qualifications.

Cecilia Willis nominated Judge Cato, who retired December 31, 2016, after serving 38 years as Superior Court Judge, the longest actively serving Superior Court Judge in Georgia. He served as the Chief Superior Court Judge for the South Georgia Judicial Circuit for 34 of those 38 years.

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Beginning in August, 2001, she saw Judge Cato in action. She cited his ability to achieve sameness. “Sameness isn’t something we all value. In the Court System, sameness is a prized quality. The same approach, the same openness, the same intent on every single case he presided over – for 38 years. Judge Cato looked for the dot on every I, the cross on every T, and made sure, every single time, that Defendants all received fair and impartial treatment. “

Willis tells about her working in close proximity to Judge Cato after she was elected to Clerk of the Superior Court. “The Judge mentored me, taught me, and helped me learn to find answers…….What I did see from Judge Cato was how much he cared about the very process by which we all must live. Judge Cato cared about every citizen that came into contact with the court system. He cared about all the employees that worked in connection to the court system. He cared about every victim and every defendant. He wanted each person, regardless of the matter presented, to feel heard by the court.”

Michael Jarrett was nominated by Pastor John Woodrum, who speaks of the many capacities in which Jarrett serves Grace Church. “Michael serves as a Deacon. He leads by caring for our congregation, assisting in maintaining our facilities, collecting the weekly offering, setting up for church, and assists in approving and dispersing mercy funds.

“On Sunday mornings Michael Jarrett serves as the Tech Team Coordinator. He oversees the technical aspects of the service including the sound, lights, projection and live stream, making sure they are running smooth. He connects with volunteers and helps lead them through various transitions and is involved in helping navigate through issues if they arise. He is always there on time and ready to help in any capacity.

“Michael is also a vital part of the youth leadership team. He leads a small group of high school guys each week. When asked why he wants to be a part of their lives, he responded by saying he wants them to know the things he wishes he had known at their age so they can avoid the mistakes he made. Simply put, he wants them to follow Jesus now, not wait until later when they have more regrets and less time. He is very dedicated.”

Brian Lewis is a Deputy with the Decatur Count Sheriff’s Office. He was nominated because of his integrity, dedication and civil responsibility to the community. The letter was unsigned, but the author indicates they have known him for seven years. He is cited as a great role model to younger kids and does his best to ensure that all who surround him are in good shape. “He is a great encourager and an awesome father to his goddaughter. He practically takes care of her as if she was his own. Year round, I see nonstop examples of what Deputy Sheriff Lewis does to not just the community but to also his fellow sisters and brothers in ‘blue.’ So many people play the part for pictures publicity and maybe even fame. Brian considers his job more so as a ‘calling.’ I strongly believe his love and heart for God goes father than just an occupation.”

Billy Ward was nominated by Basil Lucas, writes: “Billy Ward lived in New York City for 41 years. Much of that time he was a manager of high rise apartment buildings. After the 9/11 tragedy, when Billy lost 13 friends, the Bainbridge native decided to return to where he spent his childhood. …….

Since returning to small town Bainbridge from life in the Big Apple, where he played bass guitar in a band, Billy has been a very active citizen. He continues his bass guitar with a local band, The Spiritual Wonders. Along with David Cutchins, he served as a co-founder of Bainbridge Kids and Kops. He has donated many hours of service not only to planning as a board member, but as a boots-on-the-ground worker at cookouts, fishing trips and parade float decoration. “ He also serves as a mentor for a Bainbridge teenager.

“Mr. Ward has also donated a monumental amount of time to another organization. He co-founded- Civics 101. This nominee has worked tirelessly on publicity, site preparation and program planning. His drive for good citizen participation in city and county government has led to the offering of programs on subjects as varied as the electoral college and the local landfill…..His leadership skills have been evident again in his being an internationally licensed basketball and football referee and a trainer of referees. He serves our youth by refereeing games at the YMCA, public schools and Grace Academy.”  He also volunteers as a poll worker for local elections and has become a deputy manager of Decatur County Board of Elections and Registration.