Thursday evening played host to the Greater Shawnee Area Chamber of Commerce's annual meeting and awards banquet. The board welcomed its new lineup of officers and presented honor to several award recipients.

Thursday evening played host to the Greater Shawnee Area Chamber of Commerce's annual meeting and awards banquet. The board welcomed its new lineup of officers and presented honor to several award recipients.

Last year's Chairman of the Board Larry Briggs summarized the position on which the community sits — a firm foundation with much potential for growth.

He said the potential that has been accomplished, is happening or will happen in the community is only the tip of the iceberg.

“What a list of accomplishments,” he said. “If this doesn't make you proud of our community I don't know what will.”

He said the Chamber promotes and markets local business; it provides valuable information for its members.

The Chamber is your partner and your advocate; please use this resource, Briggs said.

As is traditionally part of the annual event, a changing of the guard took place; Briggs passed the baton to the incoming chairman, Mayor Richard Finley.

“As we've worked through some of the issues we've covered in the past year, it's been a real eye-opener for me,” Finley said.

He said since he wears so many, he often finds it difficult to remember which “hat“ he's got on at a given time, whether it's as a city representative or business owner, etc.

“What occurred to me is that we really all want the same thing — we want our community to be clean, safe, healthy, well-educated and affluent,” he said. “It's not very complicated, but it's hard.”

The questions needing to be answered are how to start and how to stay the course, he said.

“One constant seems to be the Chamber of commerce,” he said. “Other (leaders) come and go, but we rely on ourselves — those who have always been here. … an organization that can create a sense of place, and the objective is to help you reap the rewards.”

Finley said he believes Shawnee is a place where the community can do that.

During the evening, several retiring board members were recognized for their service to the Chamber: Suzanne Gilbert, Pam O'Rorke, Brian Blansett, Kirk Israel, Erika Jones and Brad Peltier.

The Chamber honored several of its members, presenting awards for various achievements, such as leadership, volunteerism and service.

The evening's top award, the 2016 Gordon Richards Sr. Service Award, was presented to Shawnee Milling Co. President Joe Ford.

Presenter Linda Capps, Citizen Potawatomi Nation Vice Chairman and winner of the service award in 2015, said honoring Ford was made all the more special since his father also had received it in 1996.

Other winners were:

• Pierre Taron Leadership Award — Randy Waters

• Ambassador of the Year Award — Meleah Montgomery

• Neil and Mary Wiley Outstanding Chamber Volunteer of the Year — Ron Henderson

• Agri-business Person of the Year — William and Karen Payne

• Shawnee Business Person of the Year — Kent Ellwanger

Leadership Shawnee graduates also were recognized during the event.

Leadership Shawnee Chairman Paulann Canty said 15 members of the class graduated with honors.

The 2016 class of Leadership Shawnee numbered 27; they are: Hannah Alexander, Cinthya Allen, Greg Arbuckle, Kacie Bachhofer, Lisa Cobb, Michelle Finney, Johnie Fredman, Courtney Friend, Cailey Gibson, Gave Gilmore, Todd Jackson, Megan Keenen, James McKenzie, Tracy Meeuwsen, Tony Morales, Norma Neely, Berry Nichols, Elaine Phillips, Scott Porter, Lynsey Reed, Ginger Richardson, Khara Schuetzner, Kitty Summers, Crystal Wagoner, Tom Williams, Staci Wright and David Yockel.

You can reach Vicky O. Misa at (405) 214-3962.