Chamber recognizes local leaders, teachers, businesses


BROWNSTOWN — The Jackson County Chamber of Commerce’s 91st annual awards dinner was held Friday evening at Pewter Hall.

Community and business leaders across the county were recognized for their work in making their home, community and chamber of commerce better.

This year, the dinner featured a country western theme with attendees dressing like they had just walked off the set of a John Wayne movie.

Chamber Director Dan Robison talked about the successes of the organization since he arrived two years ago.

He said the last time the chamber dinner was held at Pewter Hall was March 5, 2020. It was his fourth day as president of what was then known as the Greater Seymour Chamber of Commerce. The name change occurred this past year to better reflect the area served by the chamber.

“The thing that stands out the most about March 5, 2020, is that in my mind, that was the last day that felt normal,” Robison said. “For me, that was the last day that felt normal in so many ways. Very few things remain the same.”

Robison said there is no shortage in what the chamber, community, business leaders, educators, worshipers, parents and local citizens in general have gone through since that 2020 night.

The 2021 chamber dinner, for instance, was held as a drive-in event at Freeman Field.

To understand the pitfalls of what humanity has gone through during the COVID-19 pandemic, Robison said it could be described in a term used in his 10-year-old stepson Nolan’s vocabulary: “dog water.”

While the last two years have been “complete and utter dog water,” Robison said there’s a lot to be thankful for here.

“As real as the dog water’s been, I want to remind us this evening that we are blessed,” he said. “I’m going to say that again. We’re blessed, and good is still at work among us in Jackson County.”

Robison said there are three things he wanted to recognize about Jackson County.

The first was how much grit that he sees in the county.

“Just looking around this room tonight and seeing your faces for the past two years, I’ve heard a lot of your stories,” Robison said. “I’ve heard a lot of your struggles. A lot of times, you’ve been punched in the face and you’ve been faced with the ‘dog water,’ but you got back up and you kept going because we have grit in Jackson County, Indiana.”

Robison said the organization’s growth against tough odds, his second point, couldn’t have happened without Jackson County’s chamber members.

While other Indiana chambers have struggled with labor loss and had to take out Paycheck Protection Program loans to remain afloat, Robison said the Jackson County Chamber has increased programs, created meaningful community partnerships, increased business memberships and expanded its reach to the entire county.

Jackson County being a community where people work together to win was Robison’s third and final point.

“We’re blessed to live in a community that’s working together in winning,” he said. “I can’t thank you all enough for being here tonight, for supporting this organization, for making an investment in your local chamber and allowing us to be a part of what we together are doing as a community.”

This past year, the chamber gained 29 new members to reach a total of 376. There were 39 chamber events and 14 ribbon-cutting ceremonies. Online, the chamber’s website had 51,721 website views, and the Smalltown Strong Facebook page grew to 13,700 members.

Ray Eakins, market president for Old National Bank in Seymour, emceed the awards portion of the program.

Three Seymour Community Schools teachers were recognized for their exceptional work in education.

The Elementary School Teacher of the Year award was given to Bob Wood, physical education teacher for Margaret R. Brown and Seymour-Jackson elementary schools. He has taught at all five elementary schools, coaches the Brown Bouncing Bears jump rope team and is the varsity assistant coach for the Seymour High School girls tennis team.

Seymour Middle School eighth grade science teacher Ellen Gentry was the recipient of the Middle School Teacher of the Year. She was hired at the school in 2016 and has taught there ever since.

Curt Schleibaum, mathematics teacher at Seymour High School, was awarded the High School Teacher of the Year. He also teaches introduction to manufacturing and advanced manufacturing, also known as Owl Manufacturing.

Natasha Miller was the chamber’s Young Professional of the Year. Eakins said this award’s winner must show outstanding citizenship and involvement in the community, be a high-performing individual in their field of work, a member of Jackson County Young Professionals and be 40 years of age or younger.

Miller is an audit manager at Blue and Co. LLC and has more than 14 years of experience in public accounting.

Three businesses were inducted into the Jackson County Chamber of Commerce Hall of Fame at the dinner in three categories: Small, medium, and large.

Seymour business Automotive Equipment Specialists was inducted as a part of the small business category.

AES was started in September 2004 by Keith Maynard. The business started in the old Thompson Dairy building on East Street in Seymour for six months before operating out of the Bow and Sons Body Shop building for 12 years. The business offers many different automotive services and products.

Keith and his wife, Sherry, opened the AES building, located at 100 N. Ewing St. in the former Hoosier Parts building, in February 2017.

The Boys and Girls Club of Seymour was inducted into the hall of fame in the medium business category.

Originally, the Boys Club of Seymour was established in 1947, and the current facility at 950 N. O’Brien St. in Seymour was opened in 1996. It continues to serve boys and girls in Jackson and Jennings counties with technology, education, arts, job readiness and healthy lifestyle programs.

Jackson County REMC was inducted into the hall of fame as part of the large business category. It serves nearly 25,000 electric accounts and more than 9,000 fiber-optic accounts in parts of 10 counties.

Buddy Fletcher won the award for Committee Member of the Year. He serves for many Jackson County organizations, including the chamber, Mental Health America of Jackson County and Child Care Network.

The Spirit of the Chamber award was given to Tribune reporter Zach Spicer. He has been with the newspaper since starting as a sports freelance writer in 2006 and became a full-time news reporter in May 2007.

After a sports editor stint from 2008 until September 2014, Spicer moved to the newsroom as a reporter.

Spicer has completed Leadership Jackson County and is the organization’s secretary. He also is the treasurer and handles public relations for Special Olympics Indiana Jackson County and is a member of the Anchor House Family Assistance Center and Pantry board of directors.

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