Chamber holds annual awards banquet
by Chris Norwood
TALLADEGA – The Greater Talladega Area Chamber of Commerce held it’s annual awards banquet Wednesday afternoon and announced the winners of the new business of the year for Lincoln and for Talladega/Munford, as well as the awards for business person of the year and public servant of the year for each area.

The new business nominees for Lincoln were ATC Graphics, an enterprise of Alabama Teen Challenge; Caribe Club and Marina; Downey Eye Care; Rick’s Crossroad Grill; ROCK, or Recreational Outreach for Kids; and SK Services.

Rick Seal of Rick’s Crossroad took home the award, for bringing Cajun flavor to the area.

The Talladega nominees were Community Farm Fresh Market, LMo &Co., the Pigeon’s Roost, Susan Rae’s Learning Center, Walgreens and the law firm of Woodruff and Love.

Lindsey Moses of LMo and Co. took home the award in Talladega. She runs an art gallery, arts education center, and makes stained glass and other art works.

The outstanding business person of the year for Lincoln was Tina Seals, who runs Seals Insurance with her husband Larry. In business since 1988, she was instrumental in starting the Lincoln Business Association and helped get a similar organization started in Talladega.

The Talladega Award went to Keela Brown, owner of Talla-Floral and key organizer of the Talladega Merchants Association. The association has now evolved into the Activities Committee of Talladega, or ACT, which continues to plan fun events throughout the year highlighting local businesses.

The Lincoln public service award went to Marie Moore, a tireless volunteer who helped found a local food pantry with an all-volunteer staff. She frequently credits the efforts of her board, local churches and schools and Alabama Teen Challenge, among others, much more so than herself.

The Talladega award went to Police Chief Alan Watson, who started his career as a patrolman in 1985 and worked his way up through the ranks to become chief in 2000. He initiated programs such as take home vehicles for officers, four 12-hour shifts, improved computer networking, secured funding to purchase essential equipment for officers, got grants for car cameras and laptops, and has served on the Alabama Chiefs Of Police Association, on the E911 Board and the County Ambulance Board.

Outgoing president Fran Pope officially passed the gavel to her successor, Joel Taylor, and the board said goodbye to departing members Chad Woodruff, Ray Miller and Andy Whiddon, while welcoming Becky Griffin, Buster Taylor and Luke Montgomery.

The most poignant moment came when outgoing Chamber Director Mack Ferguson made his remarks regarding his retirement.

Initially, he described his retirement as “somewhere between happiness and euphoria,” before turning more serious. “I am humbled by the regular staff meetings where we asked God to guide our footsteps. I am awed by the support I have gotten from the board and the members, and I am overwhelmed that I have found myself on a first name basis with all our elected officials and worthwhile organizations. I am excited by the growth of businesses, the expansion of existing businesses, and in the future the TOP Trails Park and hopefully the Creek Indian Museum and Cultural Center in the heart of Talladega. And I learned the word collaborative, from working with chambers in Sylacauga and Childersburg.”

He paused for a moment as his eyes welled over and said “Most of all, I feel adopted. I came in from the outside, and everyone made feel completely at home the whole time I was here.”

Jason Daves, the incoming director, said he went to school in Mississippi and owned a business in Mobile before deciding to relocate to his wife’s hometown of Talladega to raise their son.

Ferguson had been “a great leader, a visionary” as director, he said. “I have a new job now, but I’m going to give you one, too. I want you all to become stakeholders, developing and nurturing a product, which is our community. Have a positive attitude, be open to new ideas, even if they’re long shots. Ask how something can get done. Support your schools and local businesses, and let them know you appreciate them. And last, embrace change. People always say they want change and then fuss about it. Don’t just be a gatekeeper, be a door opener.”

Matt Coulter, the voice of Talladega Superspeedway, was the guest speaker.

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© 2013