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Gala celebrates Hall community leaders and volunteers
Jacobs given gavel to lead board
Gov. Nathan Deal was awarded the Distinguished Citizen of the Year Award Thursday evening at the Chattahoochee Country Club during the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce’s 103rd annual meeting and gala.

Silver Shovel award winners

Brian Cantel, Cantel Wealth Management
Chris Wade-Curry, Gainesville City Schools
Brian Daniel, Carroll Daniel Construction
Wolfgang Hartert, community volunteer
Lee Hemmer, The Simpson Company
Geoff Lee, Road Atlanta
Deborah Mack, community volunteer
Megan Martin, American Security Shredding
Chris McCall, Keller Williams
Donogh McGuire, Elan Drug Technologies
Sherree Moss, Schreiber Foods
Mandy Reece, community volunteer
Melissa Tymchuk, Northeast Georgia Health System

W.G. Mealor Award

Russell Vandiver, President of Lanier Technical College

Distinguished Citizen of the Year

Nathan Deal, Governor of Georgia

Small Business of the Year

Rushton & Co., accounting firm

Family Business of the Year

Milton Martin Toyota, automotive dealer

Community service

Riverside Military Academy, military, college preparatory school

Ambassador of the Year

Megan Martin, American Security Shredding


While a lot has changed in 103 years, one thing has remained the same - Hall County continues to thrive because of the nurturing efforts of community members.

The Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce celebrated that fact Thursday night at its annual meeting and gala.

"Not many organizations have that - this kind of longevity or stability," said Kit Dunlap, chamber president and CEO. "We have been able to do it for all these years because of the support of our businesses and volunteers."

During the gala, chamber officials handed out a number of awards.

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal, who has been a member of the chamber for more than 30 years, was presented with the Distinguished Citizen award during the event at the Chattahoochee Country Club in Gainesville.

Darrell Snyder, chairman of the chamber's board of directors, touted Deal's lifelong commitment to public service and civic engagement first as an attorney and now as Georgia's 82nd governor.

"Although he represents more than Hall County, he never forgot about the place that he and his wife Sandra have called home for more than 30 years," Snyder said.

Deal described the award as both a "surprise" and a "great honor."

"As I went all over the state last year campaigning, people always asked what was so special about Hall County," Deal said. "If those people who asked that question could see the awards that are being given out tonight, recognizing what people are doing in this community, they would know why Hall is so special."

Russell Vandiver, president of Lanier Technical College, was presented with the W.G. Mealor Award.

The namesake of the award served as the first president of the chamber from 1908 to 1917. It is presented to a person that has made significant contributions in the community.

"If the words ‘economic' and ‘development' were listed together in the dictionary, you would see (Vandiver's) name listed beside it," Snyder said.

Among other things, he described Vandiver as being a "driving force" behind the creation of the college's manufacturing and development center in Gainesville. Snyder also stated Vandiver "serves a vital role in bringing new jobs to Georgia."

Although his individual efforts were being recognized, Vandiver credited his achievements to team work and the team's ability to "get it right."

The Family Business of the Year Award was presented to Milton Martin Toyota.

"Milton Martin began a used car dealership in 1961 in downtown Gainesville. In 1970, during a time when imported vehicles were not readily accepted, (Martin) followed his business instinct and purchased the (local) Toyota franchise," said Jay Jacobs, who presented the award to the Martin family. "Today the dealership is the oldest family-operated Toyota dealership in Georgia."

The Small Business of the Year Award was presented to Rushton & Co., an accounting firm that was founded by Barclay Rushton.

"I think we may have gotten here (33 years ago) by accident, but it was a gift from God that we arrived," Rushton said. "Gainesville is a wonderful community."

The awards weren't just presented to individuals and businesses, Riverside Military Academy received the Community Service Award for the institution's commitment to getting its students and faculty involved in volunteering in the Gainesville community.

The chamber also handed out 13 Silver Shovel Awards to volunteers that went above and beyond the call of duty.

During the gala, Snyder passed the gavel to Jacobs, who will lead the 2011-2012 board.

Jacobs is a third generation chairman, his grandfather held the position in 1928 and his father was the chairman in 1956 and again in 1970.

The focus of his tenure will be to "connect, communicate and promote."

"My grandfather never would've imagined he'd have a grandson who could take pictures with a cell phone. There's no doubt that the world we live in has changed dramatically because of technology," Jacobs said. "I do see challenges ahead in learning new ways to communicate with the businesses we serve and the businesses we hope to attract. While my grandfather couldn't have imagined (the technological changes), we can and we will."