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There’s something about sitting around a banquet table surrounded by old and new friends — and letting your hair down.
Of course, you have to have some hair to do that last part. The round, gray-headed guy has closely cropped locks.
Yet, that didn’t prevent the Teglas clan from doing exactly that Friday evening at Whitestone Country Inn.
Attending and covering the 65th annual Chamber of Commerce Banquet and awards presentation afforded us the opportunity to help celebrate area business leaders’ accomplishments across the past year. It also provided a moment or two to punch out off the clock and enjoy life in one of the most picturesque and peaceful venues Roane County has to offer.
Let’s just say the experience was priceless.
We knew it would be from the start.
Guided to our table, we discovered three very good and long-time friends already there.
Greeting us were Frank Knies, his wife JoAnn, and Lynn Spires of Citizens National Bank.
Introductions fol-lowed to new friends. First was Lisa Stooks-bury of Foust Family Fitness. She and Kimberly hit it off in a New York minute. Their passion for energetic workouts established plenty of ground for conver-sation.
Then came some boisterous “hi’s” and “how are you’s” with Paul Willson.
If you haven’t met him, your life is not complete.
Willson is the chairman and CEO of CNB. Beyond that, he’s what I would term as a Renaissance man. His conversation paths criss-crossed, collided, segued through and around an amazing number of subject areas.
He and our son connected.
Paul and Jon Clark talked banking, accounting, education, farming, athletics, solar energy, family interaction and even interjected discussion on potential book deals.
Frank, Joann, Lynn and I chatted up a bunch of subjects including the morning’s royal wedding in Great Britain.
Oh, what fun!
I suspect the 150 or so in attendance experienced just as much enjoyment.
Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett was the keynote speaker and shared insight on how his party, the legislature and the governor are working to create a “government that is smaller but responsive.”
He discussed encouraging signs of economic recovery. And he urged the many small businesses represented by the Chamber’s membership to keep plugging along; reminding everyone that small business is the heartbeat of the economy.
My favorite time of the evening came after Hargett’s comments.
No, it had nothing with his departure. Nor did it have anything to do with the fact dessert was served. Actually, because I had set up camp near the front of the room to take pictures, I didn’t get to enjoy the sweet confections with the friends at my table.
What capped off my dinner was the awards presentation.
I always enjoy seeing businesses and individuals recognized for their efforts in the community.
Business of the Year winner AGA Insurance was first to be honored. It was a pleasure to snap a photo of a beaming Jerry Stephens.
Earlier in the evening he and I had shared some light moments recounting his involvement in the formation of the Roane Alliance.
Second, and extremely deserving, was Distinguished Service Award winner Gary Goff, president of Roane State Community College.
Goff has been a dynamo since joining our community about six years ago.
I couldn’t help but grin when Chris Ahler, owner of Visionary Horizons, was honored with the Paul E. Golberg Young Professional Award.
I became acquainted with his parents when I first moved here and got to know Chris during my service on the Chamber’s board of directors.
Talk about an up and comer!
The final award of the evening went to an individual more deserving than any I could imagine.
The Athena Award, honoring a woman for her professional achievements and community service, and assistance to women, went to dear friend and table mate Lynne Spires.
Unfortunately, she had to leave the banquet early.
So, in an interesting turn of events and the first time in anyone’s memory, the award was presented to a man.
Frank Knies accepted the honor in Spires’ absence.
What glowing words he had to say about his banking colleague!
Admittedly, after starting the day at 5 a.m., having traveled to and from our newspaper in Campbell County and then quickly freshened up for the banquet, the round, gray-headed guy was more than ready for bed when we pulled into the driveway.
Let’s just say sleep came quickly … and it was filled with warm fuzzies from memories my family and many others will fondly recollect for years to come.
Congratulations to the award winners. And thank you for your work and efforts in our wonderful corner of God’s green earth!