By Emily Banks Wooten
“We gather not just to celebrate business excellence but to honor the remarkable individuals and organizations that have made profound contributions to the tapestry of our community. I am privileged to have served as your chamber board chairman for the past year. It’s been an exciting year, and I want to express my deepest gratitude to all the board members and the ambassadors for their unwavering support and hard work,” Andrew Boyce said during the 88th annual Awards Gala of the Livingston-Polk County Chamber of Commerce Thursday.
“I also want to extend my thanks to each and every one of our chamber members. Without your support, we wouldn’t have a thriving chamber of commerce. I’m thrilled to report that over the past year, we gained 64 new members, bringing our membership to over 400. Additionally, we had the pleasure of hosting 41 ribbon-cutting ceremonies, celebrating the growth of businesses in our community.
“One of the key objectives of this event is to shine a spotlight on businesses and individuals within our community who exemplify the spirit of selfless service, going above and beyond to make a lasting impact,” Boyce said.
Outstanding Polk CountyCitizen of the Year
Mr. J.D. Coogler Jr. was honored as Outstanding Polk County Citizen of the Year. As Coogler was unable to attend, his son, Keith Coogler, accepted the award on his behalf.
Born Aug. 29, 1923, Coogler started school at the old Alamo schoolhouse. Leaving the familiar surroundings of Livingston after high school, he embarked on a journey to Washington D.C., working in the U.S. House of Representatives and attending Columbia Technical Institute. His passion for architecture bloomed and he earned his certificate in Architectural Drafting in 1942. However, duty called, and in 1943, he answered that call by enlisting in the U.S. Army Air Corp. His service during World War II took him through various stations and missions, culminating in 35 flights over Europe, displaying courage, dedication and a deep sense of responsibility.
Returning home to Livingston, he continued his commitment to community service. His involvement in the U.S. government’s DDT spraying program demonstrated his dedication to public health. His academic pursuits at the University of Houston led him to a distinguished career in architecture, marked by accomplishments such as managing the construction of Ben Taub Hospital and contributing to numerous local projects.
Beyond his professional achievements, his heart beats for Polk County’s history. His role as a member of the Polk County Historical Commission for over 20 years and his pivotal involvement in various historical projects showcase his passion for preserving local heritage. In 2019, he was instrumental in researching and planning a ceremony in which a tree at 713 Sprott St. was dedicated as the sixth largest loblolly pine tree in Texas, which he remembered playing under as a young boy.
He is a distinguished architect and veteran and a man whose roots run deep in Polk County soil. His centennial was recognized with a proclamation from the Polk County Commissioners Court, a flag that flew over the Capitol and citations for his service.
Community Service of the Year
Jared Jernigan was awarded the community service award. This individual has been a quiet but consistent force for good in our midst. His commitment to community service is not confined to words but is a living testament in action, reflected in countless hours volunteered throughout the community. Whether serving as president, construction foreman, or maintaining buildings, he does whatever it takes to make a positive impact, even for someone he may never meet.
His dedication extends beyond the ordinary. As a member of the Livingston Volunteer Fire Department, he has shown immense bravery in the face of danger, protecting the community with unwavering commitment. But it doesn’t stop there. His volunteerism extends to numerous other organizations. He doesn’t limit his service to official roles or titles. Whether showing up with a generator, tool bag, breakfast, or simply picking up the things others forgot, his generosity knows no bounds. He doesn’t have to be a part of an organization to show up for auctions and other ways to contribute, selflessly giving back to the community time and time again.
Non-Profit Organization of the Year
The Livingston Lions Club was recognized as the Non-Profit Organization of the Year. Spanning over eight decades, the roots of the Lions Club run deep, stemming from a historic meeting at the old City Hall in 1941. Led by the visionary Luther “Sandy” Moore, the founding members, including Harry Collins, Dr. J.E. Norwood, C.L. Cochran, Milton Dean, Tom Coleman, Curtis Garner and Guy Stewart, set the foundation for a legacy of service that continues to thrive today.
In the face of adversity during World War II, when many of their members were called into service, the club’s spirit prevailed. The dues were a mere $3 per month, a testament to the humble beginnings that would lead to extraordinary contributions to the community. Over the years, the club has been a beacon of generosity, contributing to countless projects that have enriched the lives of those in Livingston. From supporting youth organizations like Boy Scouts, Boys and Girls State and FFA, to investing in community infrastructure through organizations like G.R.A.C.E. Pregnancy and Habitat for Humanity, the club has left an indelible mark on the hometown.
The commitment extends beyond local projects, as they generously contribute to Lion’s Club charities, including the Texas Lions Children’s Camp in Kerrville, the Lion’s Eye Bank, the Leader Dog Program and the Lion’s Clubs International Foundation. Today the club has 110 dedicated members.
Director, Ambassador of the Year
In a bittersweet portion of the evening, it was announced that the evening’s event was dedicated to the memory of two remarkable individuals who played pivotal roles in supporting the chamber and enriching the community – Debbie Mayes and David Burns.
Mayes’ creativity knew no bounds as she wrote, produced and sang in the renowned Ogden’s Jubilee, a cornerstone of the commerce center’s fundraisers. She served as the guardian of the commerce center, overseeing its operations with unwavering commitment. Her dedication to the facility transformed it into a beacon of community engagement, fostering creativity and growth for all who walked through its doors. At the chamber, she was nothing short of indispensable. Rarely missing a function, her tireless efforts, infectious enthusiasm and warm spirit made every event memorable, creating a sense of camaraderie that defined the community.
In recognition of Mayes’ contributions and in honor of her memory, the Director of the Year award was presented in her memory to Brandon Wigent. He is a professional achiever and an outstanding member of the community, embodying dedication, passion and an unwavering commitment to both career and community service.
Wigent is an active participant in various civic organizations, dedicating time and energy to initiatives that make a positive impact on the community. His determination, drive and ability to give 110% to everything he does is truly admirable.
In 2022, Burns stood as a beacon of leadership, serving as the ambassador president and earning the well-deserved title of ambassador of the year. His commitment, passion and unwavering support for the chamber were the driving forces behind his remarkable achievements. He was not just an entrepreneur and an auctioneer. He was a dedicated community builder who generously shared his time, talents and expertise to uplift those around him. His invaluable contributions to the chamber touched many aspects of the community’s growth and prosperity.
In recognition of Burns’ service and in honor of his memory, the Ambassador of the Year award was presented to Kaycee Hendrix. Whether it’s work, volunteering or play, Hendrix is a continuous cycle of giving and participating. Her involvement is not limited to one organization or cause, rather she is a dynamic force that propels positive change across many aspects of the community.
Large Business of the Year
Georgia-Pacific was recognized as the Large Business of the Year. Its journey in Polk County spans nearly half a century, and in this time, it has become an integral part of the community, not just as a business but as a committed and responsible corporate citizen.
For five decades, Georgia-Pacific has invested in Polk County, not only by creating value for customers but by actively contributing to the fabric of the community.
One of the most admirable aspects of Georgia-Pacific’s commitment is its multifaceted approach to community engagement. Through education, environment, enrichment and entrepreneurship initiatives, Georgia-Pacific has played a pivotal role in safeguarding over 1,000 jobs in Polk County, ensuring economic stability for countless families.
In the past year alone, Georgia-Pacific’s generosity has been felt across the county. Donations totaling approximately $250,000 have been directed toward local nonprofit organizations, volunteer fire departments and schools. From supporting building and trade programs in high schools to investing in robotics education and funding a new fire station in Corrigan, Georgia-Pacific has been at the forefront of community development.
Small Business of the Year
Crossin Moving & Storage was recognized as Small Business of the Year. Since 1995, their commitment to the community has been remarkable, not only providing essential services but also serving as pillars of support for the local economy. What sets them apart is not just their professional success, but their unwavering dedication to the wellbeing of the community and its future generations.
The Crossins have been staunch supporters of Livingston ISD and neighboring schools, extending a helping hand whether it be in the form of moving and restoration services or encouragement for local youth to excel in both sports and academics.
Their involvement in various organizations further underscores their commitment to community development. From LYBA to LGSA, Livingston Youth Golf Association and FFA, they have been an active and influential presence, positively impacting the lives of many.
Boyce recognized outgoing directors Tina Alexander-Sellers and Amber Dominy.
“They have made significant contributions to the chamber. Tina and Amber, your dedication and hard work have not gone unnoticed. Thank you for your service to the chamber and our community,” Boyce said.
As Boyce passed the gavel to the incoming chairman, Matt Anderson, he said he does so with absolute confidence that the chamber will be in capable hands under Anderson’s leadership.
Passing of the Gavel
“What an honor it is to stand before you as the newly appointed chairman of the board for the chamber of commerce. I am genuinely thrilled about the opportunity to serve in this role and build upon the remarkable growth and progress that we’ve achieved together,” Anderson said.
“As we embark on this new year, I want to express my enthusiasm for the exciting developments we have planned, along with the continuation of our established programs, networking events and advertising initiatives, which will contribute to the chamber’s ongoing success. Our programs of work will remain steadfast, ensuring that we provide valuable resources and support to our members. We’ll uphold our commitment to fostering connections, providing avenues for networking and offering effective platforms for advertising.
“I want to take a moment to express my gratitude to our outgoing chairman, Andrew Boyce. Under his leadership, the chamber has thrived, and I look forward to building upon the strong foundation he has laid. Thank you, Andrew, for your dedication and hard work over the past year. Together, we will work collaboratively to ensure that the chamber continues to be a dynamic force for positive change in our community,” Anderson said.