By Josh Shepherd, News writer
Choosing honorees for the 44th annual Cynthiana-Harrison County Chamber of Commerce awards banquet was no easy task, said executive director Pat Grenier. Every category had at least six or more nominees and all were deserving of recognition.
With an expression of appreciation to the selection committee, Grenier was proud to present awards to eight new honorees at the annual banquet Tuesday night at the Harrison County Extension office.
Before presenting the awards, Grenier invited Chamber president James Smith to give the audience a review of Chamber activities from 2013 and projection of the good things to come this year.
Smith, who also accepted a second term as president of the Chamber last night, briefly cited several of the Chamber’s successful activities from the previous year.
Among its more notable achievements, Smith reported that Chamber membership increased by 20 percent last year. The increase reflects the growing interest individuals have to enhance community life in Cynthiana and Harrison County.
He also noted the expansion of the summer concert series downtown and improvements to the Chamber website. Smith seemed most proud of the significant investment that Chamber has made to bolster tourism in Cynthiana.
He expressed his thanks to all the Chamber members for caring enough to pitch in and make Cynthiana a better place to live.
“However, when I’m driving somewhere, I don’t spend my time looking in the rearview mirror. 2014 is going to be an even better year,” Smith projected.
He noted the Chamber’s ambitious plans to expand on its existing events and partner with other organizations to enhance this area’s profile in the region and state.
As has been customary with the Chamber award program, winners were recognized with a brief presentation from their nominators.
Public Safety Provider of the Year
Karen Adams, director of the Champions for a Drug-Free Harrison County, presented Cynthiana Police Detective Alan Judy with the Public Safety Provider of the Year Award.
In her comments, Adams said that Judy preferred to work behind the scenes. “He’s not really comfortable in the spotlight,” Adams said.
But in addition to his work in support of several programs in the community, Judy has been instrumental in setting up several local Neighborhood Watch programs.
He volunteers his time at Eastside Elementary School and also serves as an assistant coach for cross country.
Health Care Provider of the Year
Recognizing Betty Jean Palmer as Health Care Provider of the Year was her son, Jeremy Palmer.
Though he admitted to being nervous making a speech, Palmer was proud to nominate his mother for the award.
In nearly 20-plus years of nursing at Harrison Memorial Hospital, Betty Jean Palmer has done everything from ER duty to ambulance runs, intensive care unit coverage and, most often, in transitional care, he said.
“In all her years of service, she has probably provided care to nearly everyone in Harrison County,” Jeremy Palmer said.
Accepting the award, Betty Jean Palmer expressed her appreciation to everyone at Harrison Memorial Hospital. “I have been very proud to be a part of HMH all these years,” she said.
Citizen of the Year
Kelley Brunker, president of the Cynthiana-Harrison County Public Library Board, presented the Citizen of the Year award to Sally Kinney.
Brunker remarked that Kinney had first considered a career in journalism, but at the suggestion of her father, Judge Mac Swinford, chose to earn her Masters in Education degree instead.
This wise decision launched Kinney on an educational career that spans four decades, Brunker said.
“Think back to your own teachers. The one that stands out for you is that teacher who mentored and counseled you. Sally Kinney is one of those teachers that believed in you. She continues to challenge and educate her students long after they have left her classroom,” Brunker said.
Volunteer of the Year
Lourena Judy presented Jenny Tapp with the Volunteer of the Year award.
Judy asked the audience to imagine being so dedicated to an organization that you never left.
Jenny Tapp earned every badge and honor it was possible to earn as a dedicated member of the Girl Scouts. And yet she had so much passion for the organization, and its importance to young girls, that she has been a dedicated volunteer to the program ever since.
“Jenny Tapp has been all over this country and in different parts of the world on behalf of the Girls Scouts program,” Judy said.
Farmer of the Year
Chester McCauley received his recognition as Farmer of the Year from his three children.
Their presentation consisted of a series of jokes about how you know you’re father is a farmer when ...
“Your big Christmas present, the one you can’t wait for, is your own pair of coveralls.”
“When friends come to visit and they get put to work.”
“When your father has used an extension cord as a rope more than once.”
McCauley hugged his children, then gave his one word acceptance speech.
Educator of the Year
Shelley Slade presented Harrison County Middle School band and music teacher Julie Lucky with the Educator of the Year award.
In her remarks, Slade said that Lucky was one of those special teachers who leave a lasting impression on her students.
“She gives purpose to an awkward young girl looking for confidence and she steers young boys into the right direction, even if that means that every piece of furniture in your house has drum stick marks on them,” Slade said.
Accepting the award, Lucky said that she loves all of Harrison County’s children. Once they are her student, they are “mine for the rest of their lives,” Lucky said.
“I will kick them in the rear end when they make bad decisions. but I will love them, always,” she said.
Business People of the Year
The final presentation of the evening came from teacher and business owner Roger Slade who recognized Charlie and Maribeth Thomas, owners of Leono’s Restaurant, as Business People of the Year.
“In every small community, there is that place where everyone goes. Where the kids hang out after school and on weekends. For Cynthiana, that place was Leono’s at the end of the viaduct near 27,” Slade said.
He said that Leono’s remained that same wonderful hometown place when it moved to its new location on the corner of Bridge and Church streets.
“This is a place that has provided good jobs, exhibited pride in their property, and withstood the test of time,” Slade concluded.
Speaking for them both, Maribeth Thomas recalled the day when Leono’s officially abandoned its old location for its new one in the center of town.
She said that even though the building was old, it was still difficult to think about leaving the place.
But at the moment, she believes God sent her a personal message of reassurance.
“It was never the building. It is the people of this community that have made our restaurant such a special experience,” Thomas said.
She said that she and her husband have been blessed to serve this community over the decades. And she has learned as much from the young people who have worked with her at the restaurant.
“We taught them to provide good service and make good food. But they have given us a lot more,” she said.
The awards banquet concluded with a brief ceremony re-installing James Smith as chamber president for a second term.