JoEllen Wilson was honored on Thursday with the 2012 First Citizen Award, the 37th annual award given to an individual who has shown significant meritorious service to his or her community.
More than 300 people at the Northside Hospital-Cherokee Conference Center in Canton applauded Wilson’s se-lection with a standing ovation.
She told the crowd she was “eternally grateful” for the award and was surprised by her two sons, James Wilson and John Wilson, as well as two of her four grandchildren, Matthew Wilson and Rachel Wilson.
City of Canton Mayor Gene Hobgood presented her with the award.
“I’m honored to present this to someone who has meant so much to the city of Canton,” he said.
Wilson, 69, has served a multitiude of roles in the county, including vice president for institutional advancement and external affairs at Reinhardt University, where she has been employed since 1981. In her position, Wilson works hand-in-hand with President Dr. Thomas Isherwood to raise funds and promote the university. She is known to many as “the face of Reinhardt.”
Other notable accomplishments in Wilson’s career include her role as Mayor Pro Tem of the Canton City Council since 1990, during which she has been instrumental in countless efforts, including creating legislation to build the city’s reservoir, supporting a referendum for citizens to vote on alcohol sales and supporting the Impact Fee Ordi-nance, which raised millions of dollars to build the civic center and other recreational facilities.
Also during the meeting, the changing of the chamber guard was marked when Chairman Ben Looper of Canton “passed the gavel” to incoming 2012 Chairman Tom Heard of Free Home.
Heard, Cherokee County Water and Sewerage Authority general manager, thanked Looper for an “outstanding” job as chairman throughout the last year.
“He was always there for us and it was a pleasure and honor to work with him,” he said of Looper, who is presi-dent and CEO of Southeast Restoration Group.
He also thanked President and CEO Pam Carnes and the entire chamber membership, his employer and his family for their support.
“I pledge my commitment to provide confidence and guidance to chamber businesses,” Heard said, adding that he recognizes that the business owners’ time and financial commitment is to the Cherokee Chamber is “precious.”
Heard also outlined his goals for the year, which include establishing “Chamber Shirt Friday,” where the execu-tive committee will wear the company shirt of a selected chamber member to promote his or her business; supporting a “Resume Day,” where volunteers would review and critique resumes in an event on May 9 that will be open and free to the public; creating an award for young professionals within the organization and working more closely with the Georgia Work Ready program.
“I’m excited about 2012 and I believe we have a bright future,” he said.
Heard then went on to recognize the 2012 executive committee and new board members.
The committee is comprised of himself, Looper, Chairman-elect Randy Gravley of WLJA 101.1 FM; Vice Chair-man of Community Relations Lewis Cline of Bank of North Georgia; Vice Chairman of Economic and Small Busi-ness Development Rick Ingram of Community & Southern Bank; and Vice Chair of Chamber Services David Sim-mons of Chattahoochee Technical College.
The new board members beginning three-year terms are: Susan Filiberto of MUST Ministries; Shelia Garrison, resident; Steve Garrison of Canton Tire & Wheel; Billy Hayes of Northside Hospital-Cherokee; Jeff Rusbridge of Dyer & Rusbridge; Rick Whiteside of Wetland & Ecological Consultants; and Jay Wright of It's A Grind Coffee House.
Looper and his board highlighted the year’s accomplishments through a video presentation produced by ETC-3.
Among the achievements noted for 2011 were recruiting 167 new members, holding 57 ribbon cuttings, raising $12,000 at Cherokee Pignic, having over 500 patrons visiting the chamber’s annual Jingle Bell Shop and increasing involvement in new and continuing chamber programs for members.
Two other awards presented to chamber members were the Entrepreneur of the Year award, which as given to John Barker of Delphi Global Technology, and the Volunteer of the Year award, which was granted to Chuck Flagg of Cruise Holidays. Flagg was not in attendance and will be presented the award at the next chamber meeting.