68th Annual Greater Picayune Area Chamber of Commerce Awards Banquet

Published 7:00 am Saturday, November 12, 2016

CITIZEN OF THE YEAR: Dr. Debbie Moore, at left, was honored as this year’s Citizen of the Year at the Greater Picayune Area Chamber of Commerce’s annual Awards Banquet.  Photo by Jeremy Pittari

CITIZEN OF THE YEAR: Dr. Debbie Moore, at left, was honored as this year’s Citizen of the Year at the Greater Picayune Area Chamber of Commerce’s annual Awards Banquet.
Photo by Jeremy Pittari

Two themes were conveyed during the Greater Picayune Area Chamber of Commerce’s 68th annual Awards Banquet, education and law enforcement.
Dr. Andrea Mayfield, executive director of the Mississippi Community College Board, was the keynote speaker. During Thursday’s banquet, she shared the importance of Mississippi’s community colleges and their role in economic development.
The affordability of receiving an education from a community college and the benefits that education provides are substantial. She said that for every tax dollar spent on the system, there is a $4.80 return on that investment. Additionally, a year’s worth of education through the community college system is affordable, costing an average of $2,700.
Because the community college system changes with times and technologies, the programs meet the public’s demands. Ultimately, Mayfield said she would like to see every citizen trained and employed in the state so Mississippi can be competitive and profitable.
Even people without a high school diploma can get on the fast track to receiving a degree. Instead of waiting until they acquire a GED, they can enroll in community college classes through the MiBest program. Students enrolled in that program work toward their GED while also earning college credits.
The second speaker of the evening was Captain Johnny Poulos, the director of public affairs at the Mississippi Highway Patrol.
As an 18-year veteran of the department, he said that while he always wanted a career in law enforcement as a child, life took him down a different road in his younger days. In high school he worked in the automotive repair field, a course he stayed until he was 34. At that age, he decided to enlist in the Highway Patrol academy.
One of the things he failed to realize when making the transition was that people are typically not happy to see a law enforcement officer.
“How many people see blue lights in the rear view mirror and say, ‘Oh yeah, I’ve been looking forward to this ticket’?” Poulos said.
The job also entails working fatal accidents and notifying family members of the tragedies involved, both things training can’t entirely prepare an officer to handle.
But he had some advice for the officers in the room.
“Don’t forget what you signed up for when it gets bad. You have to do what you signed up for and stay the course,” Poulos said.
During Thursday’s event, several individuals and organizations were recognized with awards.
This year’s Firefighter of the Year is Josh Duncan. Fire Chief Keith Brown said Duncan started his career in 2009, and has since earned several certifications, including smoke diver, road rescue technician and confined space technician.
This year’s Civilian of the Year is Ginger Bennett. Police Chief Bryan Dawsey said Bennett started working at the department in 1993 as a records clerk. Since that time she has worked in various capacities with the department, most recently as Dawsey’s executive assistant. During her tenure she has been like a mother to the staff.
This year’s Chief’s Award went to Dustin Moeller, for his patience in dealing with the public and the numerous letters of recognition from the people he served. Dawsey said one traffic stop involved a 33-year veteran of law enforcement who was passing through Picayune. The officer was stopped by Moeller, and later described his demeanor as firm but kind as he conducted a textbook traffic stop.
Two detectives were named Police Officer of the Year this year. They are Seth Ledet and Josh Stockstill. Over the course of their long hours working in investigations, they were responsible for 78 narcotics arrests, Dawsey said.
This year’s Citizen of the Year was awarded to Dr. Debbie Moore, for the numerous events she and her staff attend and her work with the Krewe of Pearl and Exchange Club of Picayune.
The Civic Club of the Year was awarded to the Kiwanis Club of the Greater Picayune Area for its extensive work to better the lives of special needs children. Those efforts helped install a wheelchair swing at Friendship Park, establish the Buddy Ball program, and hold the annual Special Olympics.
This year’s Volunteer of the Year is Tana Cochran for her extensive work in the community and presence at every local function.
The Excellence in Business award was presented to Highland Community Hospital for the hospital’s expansion of medical services in the community, and its extensive economic impact.
A new award was presented this year; Altruist of the Year. It was presented to John Ferrucci for his mentorship to the Chamber throughout the last year.

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