The leadership Benton Mayor David Mattingly displayed in his first year in office earned him a coveted honor Tuesday night: 2011 Citizen of the Year.
The award was presented at the annual Benton Area Chamber of Commerce Banquet.
Other top honors announced at the event included:
•Volunteer of the Year, Ray Baggett.
•Ambassador of the Year, J.J. Bruton.
•Top Recruiter of the Year, Kim Minnix.
•Business Student of the Year, Myra Cloud.
Gary James, executive director of the chamber, announced all of the winners.
In announcing Mattingly's honor, James said, "From the day he took office, he has been pro-economic growth and also a valuable partner to the Benton Area Chamber of Commerce."
He pointed out that high standards are set in determining the recipient of the award. Key indicators include:
•Do you try to make this community a better place to live?
•Did you make a difference?
•Did your actions change the outcome?
•How do you treat people?
•Are you leading people to follow by setting an example?
Mattingly's strength was obvious in all of these areas, James said.
"Because of his background in corporate America and his extensive knowledge of budgetary issues, he was able to work closely with city department heads to sustain a balanced budget in 2011," James said.
He pointed out that economic development has taken a positive move under Mattingly with the "filling of three large vacant stores on Military Road," naming Big Lots, Goodwill and Saline Family Practice.
He commended Mattingly for holding quarterly town hall meetings, starting shortly after he took office, and continuing in each city ward "in an attempt to give all citizens a voice in their local government."
James noted that Mattingly organized business council meetings in an effort to bring city government and the local business community together, thus "creating an open line of communication regarding issues that affect the ability to create jobs in Benton."
He noted that Mattingly has spearheaded improvements in the Ralph Bunche Community, including improvements to Ralph Bunche Park, increased police patrols, and the development of a plan for sidewalk replacement and improvement.
"By meeting with members of all political parties, he has built coalitions that reach across all party lines," James said, adding that he cannot discern whether Mattingly subscribes affiliation with any party.
"Under his leadership, we saw the extension of the Advertising and Promotion Commission take place with overwhelming voter support for the new events center," he said.
"And by organizing community groups along with Chancellor Joel Anderson of UALR, the mayor led efforts to see a four-year degree program brought to the UALR Benton Center," he added.
Because he has respect and appreciation for city employees, he has implemented a Service Awards Program that recognizes them for their years of service to the city, James added.
James also commended the chamber staff "for
their dedication that allows me to take time to serve the community."
Other Award Recipients
Before naming Baggett as Volunteer of the Year, James noted that the chamber is primarily "a volunteer-based organization."
"Without the free-will efforts of many individuals, we would not function," he said.
While many gave of their time to chamber projects, "one person stands out who lent his expertise and energy to not only the chamber events but also to the community."
A consensus of the membership would say that individual was Baggett in 2011, James said.
When James announced Minnix as the top recruiter for the year, he called her "a member of the chamber that represents one of the best downtowns in Arkansas."
"As a result of her enthusiasm and business efforts, she is now on the board of directors of the chamber," he said.
As James named Bruton as Ambassador of the Year, he pointed out that she attended more scheduled Ambassador Committee events than any other member.
"She is a true ambassador for our chamber," James said.
In announcing Cloud as Business Student of the Year, James pointed out that she has maintained a 3.7 overall grade-point average while completing honors core courses.
He said she is a career technical education completer in four areas: Finance, Management, Desktop Publishing and Programming.
After graduation from Benton High School, Cloud plans to attend Pulaski Technical college and then transfer to UALR. She is the daughter of Paul and Karen Cloud.
Also recognized at the banquet were outgoing members of the chamber's board of directors.
Jordan Woolbright, president of the chamber, spoke briefly. He will be continuing in that role in the coming year.
Master of Ceremonies Tom Baxley commended Woolbright's leadership, saying, "We're very honored to have him run this Chamber of Commerce."
Woolbright said it was his "honor to serve" as chamber president.
"I've enjoyed it," he said. "This is a great organization."
Guest speaker for the event was Dr. Charles L. Welch, president of the Arkansas State University Systems. He was introduced by his friend, former state Sen. Shane Broadway of Bryant, a graduate of ASU and now interim director of the state Department of Higher Education.
Broadway pointed out that the ASU Systems have experienced significant growth under Welch's leadership.
Welch noted that it "takes everyone working to move an organization forward."
A key to accomplishing this is first to "define yourself," Welch said.
"Decide what you want to become. Carve out a niche and develop a clear image."
He also said it's important to erase any semblance of an inferiority complex.
He emphasized the important of encouraging young people to seek higher education.
"Economic development and education are closely aligned," Welch said.
The banquet was held in Holland Chapel Baptist Church's Family Life Center.
Entertainment was presented by the Benton High School Jazz Band and and the Southern Belles, a select choral group that presented a medley of "train songs" in keeping with the chamber's "All Aboard" theme.
Retired Col. Keith Beck led the pledge of allegiance and Jason Tallent of the host church gave the invocation. The Southern Belles sang the national anthem.
The meal was catered by Western Sizzlin and served by members of the Mayor's Youth Advisory Council.
Corporate sponsors for the banquet were First Security Bank, Everett Buick GMC, Rineco, Baxley-Penfield Moudy and Almatis.