POINT PLEASANT — This week’s 67th Annual Mason County Area Chamber of Commerce Dinner honored the best in economic development and community service.
The dinner included awards for everything from Outstanding Downtown Revitalization to Best New Commercial Development, and was capped off with a rousing, and downright uproarious keynote speech, by Jim Justice, owner of The Greenbrier.
The event, with nearly 200 people in attendance, began with a social hour hosted by Peoples Bank which included a performance by musician Paul Doeffinger and an appearance by Sen. Joe Manchin (D). Manchin’s visit was a stop on his“Commonsense Solutions” tour across the state to talk with West Virginians about ideas and solutions for creating a stronger West Virginia economy. Manchin also had warm words to say about Justice and Justice’s love for the Mountain State through different philanthropic ventures.
After the social hour, dinner guests adjourned into the Wedge Auditorium at Point Pleasant Junior/Senior High School where the actual awards ceremony took place. Chamber President Eddie Lanham gave the welcome and led the Pledge of Allegiance, while Lt. Col. (Ret.) Amanda DeVillan Clark sang the National Anthem.
Then, John Musgrave introduced Justice to the podium for the keynote speech. Justice, who likes to be known as the basketball coach for Greenbrier East High School who happens to own The Greenbrier, talked about coming from humble beginnings - including grandparents who didn’t have indoor plumbing and a father who lived in a home owned by a coal company. However, Justice’s speech was not meant to bemoan the hardships in life but to encourage all to do better with what they’re given, to do the right thing, expect miracles and tell the truth.
“We’ve gotten away from knowing what’s right and wrong,” Justice said. “What seems to matter now is what you can get by with.”
Justice repeated the theme of admitting when you are wrong as a starting point for moving forward; as a precursor for assessing a situation which needs improved, becoming more focused and disciplined and improving communication. He talked about the problems facing West Virginia and how he loved his state “beyond all good sense.” He said he felt there were more people who wanted to see the state lose than win and that created an inbalance - an inbalance that needed addressed and solved. He remarked his father often told him, “there’s always something you can do,” which was a statement he posed to the audience to consider.
Justice’s speech also had its quirky humor which had the audience rolling during stories about coyotes, dead fish stuck in a toilet and Justice himself stuck in an MRI machine during a power outage. All of these stories seemed to circle back to finding not only humor in life, but a purpose to move forward and make a difference whether in business or within communities.
After Justice’s speech, Lanham and Chamber Director Hilda Austin presented the Past President’s Award to Missy Scarberry. Then, receiving 2012 Chamber First Impression Awards were Todd Bowen and Gary Cotton for the Event Center which took home the Best New Commercial Development Award; Christina Rickard from Handmaid Sweets and Eats of Mason which took home the Best Development Award; Dennis and Barbara Brumfield from The Coffee Grinder which took home the Outstanding Downtown Revitalization Award; the Brumfields also accepted the Most Attractive New Sign Award for Main Street Baptist Church; Trinity U.M. Church was recognized with the Best Community Project Award for the church’s new Christian Community Center; Best Landscaping Award went to Brad Deal and The Chef House - Deal also catered this week’s dinner and social hour.
Then, Lanham presented the Community Service Award to Lannes Williamson. Williamson was presented the award for his service to the Mason County Fair, the Pleasant Valley Hospital Board of Directors, Mason County Economic Development Authority, Ohio Valley Bank Board of Directors, as well as serving on several state and national forestry associations. Lannes years of running his family business, Williamson Wood Pallets was also recognized.
The ceremony closed with prayer given by Rev. James Kelly.