Winners of last Tuesday night’s Clinton-Sampson Chamber of Commerce awards were most deserving of the accolades bestowed upon them, not just for their support of the Chamber and its activities but for their continued commitment to this wonderful community in which we are all a part.
Clinton Mayor Lew Starling, named the Chamber’s Outstanding Member of the Year, was the perfect choice for this year’s honor. As the city’s leader for over a decade and as a devoted member of the Clinton and Sampson community, Starling has committed much of his time, finances and energy to giving back to an area he always acknowledges has given much to him. From providing flowers each year to dress up the stage for the Martin Luther King Jr. banquet to purchasing t-shirts for the new Community Youth Choir, when a need arises, Starling is quick to answer the call.
Whether a water line breaks or a church needs a speaker, whether a major crime has been committed or a Boy Scout group needs assistance, Starling is there, shirtsleeves rolled up, ready to help in whatever way he can. What’s more, he’s thrilled to do it. Lew Starling doesn’t just say he loves Clinton and Sampson County, he shows it in his actions.
But it’s more than even those things, as important as they are. Starling is, as Becky Spell so aptly put it, “a man of great integrity and honor … someone who takes great pride in where he lives and doesn’t mind doing what it takes to make this the best city it can be.” He represents Clinton and, really, Sampson County well.
Starling believes in the community, and with him, it’s not just about involvement, it’s about a true concern for the people who make up Sampson County, something that is shown as much in his actions as his words.
For all those reasons, Starling was most deserving of the honor given him by Chamber members.
So, too, was the honor bestowed upon Bill Johnson as the Chamber’s first Lifetime Achievement Award winner. From the time he arrived in Clinton in 1943 until today, Johnson has immersed himself in this community, supported it and worked hard to improve the quality of life for others here. Although not a native, everyone who knows him considers him one.
A genteel man with a spirit of fun and enthusiasm for all those Clinton and Sampson County, Johnson was the ideal selection for this first-ever Chamber honor, and quite the example for others who one day hope to achieve such a prestigious honor.
Deserving, too, are the others receiving awards last Tuesday, and those who were nominated but didn’t take home the award — though they’ve earned the accolades, themselves. From John Prestage, vice president at Prestage Farms, who was named Business Person of the Year to Marie Daniels, named this year’s Garnie Edwards Ambassador of the year, and the others — Ed Carr of Carr Real Estate and Dr. John McPhail and Dr. Michael Valenti of Clinton Surgical Associates — all have contributed much to this community.
So, too, have those who were nominated for awards —Simmons and Simmons, Lisbon Maintenance, Cumpler Plastic Pipe and Caison Enterprises. They were also deserving of the nods they were given and have, over many years, returned much to the community that has supported them.
It’s important to note that the accolades are real because the commitment to this community is just as real and offered up by each of those named Tuesday night, whether they won or were merely nominated.
What’s more, every business person in Tuesday night’s audience has a common focus — making Sampson County better.
And, as Prestage said in his acceptance speech — Sampson County is a great place to be and folks here are as good as they come.
It’s a true statement and one in which we should all be very grateful.