Gilmer chamber recognizes leaders during annual banquet
Feb. 8, 2018 at 11:42 p.m.
GILMER — The incoming president of the Gilmer Area Chamber of Commerce expects a chorus of voices to steer the business association in 2018.
Brandon Dodd first asked more than 250 diners at Thursday's annual chamber banquet to look around the room but think of the people who were not there.
"There are many in this room, but many are not and don't know they should be," Dodd told the Gilmer Civic Center crowd.
A single voice, he said, should be heard.
"I need to hear it, we all need to hear it," he said. "We need your perspective, we need your talents. We need your story to weave it with ours."
Dodd acknowledged that sometimes Upshur County residents don't agree.
"It's good to be different," he said. "It's good to have differences. Don't let those differences divide us. Let them unite us, like a great marriage. ... Everything you need to thrive and grow is right here in Gilmer, Texas."
The chamber honored its volunteers and people who give their time to their county.
Those were led by Outstanding Citizen 2018 Eddie Turner, a native of the Valley View community east of Gilmer who has dedicated much of his retirement years to researching Texas orphanages.
In spring 2017, Turner led a group of family and friends who cleared brush and brambles obscuring a roughly 25-grave cemetery where residents of a black orphanage had lain hidden right off a city artery.
The Dickson Orphanage was the state's only home for black orphans from 1901 until it closed in 1943, Turner's research showed.
"He's done a great deal of research into a topic that no one in the state has done," Brent Goudarzi said in introducing Turner.
The honoree said many had helped with the Dickson project.
"With Gilmer, you all did it in the community, coming together," Turner said. "We can do it, let's continue to do it."
The banquet's keynote speaker, U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Tyler, was not able to attend because of the budget negotiations in Washington. In his stead, state Rep. Jay Dean, R-Longview, shared his hopes for the legislative session that opens next year.
"We've got to simplify our school financing and make sure we pull the weight and the burden off the local property owners," he said, targeting the franchise tax that was supposed to generate enough money to do that. "It's just a ridiculous tax. It's never generated anything close to that."
Other honorees Thursday included the Purse Bingo Committee, a group of gamers named the Top Hand for throwing a fundraiser for the chamber last year.
The Unsung Hero Award went to Fred and Jennifer Anderson, also known during the season as Santa and Mrs. Claus.
"Ho! Ho! Ho!," Anderson said, and the laughs were returned. "We are indeed honored and very surprised by this."
Tina Rosenbalm took home the Outstanding Educator honor, partly because eight in 10 students at her school are under her FFA guidance.
The Humanitarian Award went to Norma Tomlin for, among other volunteer work, cooking for the Upshur County Community Fund, delivering Gideon Bibles and helping out Meals on Wheels.