Chamber honors long-time Mayor, Vowell’s, among others

Award winners at Monday's Chamber of Commerce Celebration included Dondi Rohr representing Vowell's, Austin Caldwell, Deana Pritchett, Ben Sherrod and Chuck Smith.

Award winners at Monday’s Chamber of Commerce Celebration included Dondi Rohr representing Vowell’s, Austin Caldwell, Deana Pritchett, Ben Sherrod and Chuck Smith.

Long-time Demopolis Mayor Austin Caldwell received the Lifetime Achievement Award at Monday evening’s 97th Demopolis Area Chamber of Commerce Celebration at the Civic Center.

Caldwell took over the city’s leadership in 1985 amid financial difficulty and when he stepped down 19 years later, the city had $5 million in reserves, said Demopolis businessman Woody Collins, who presented the award. Collins added that Caldwell’s tenure as mayor “was the beginning of Demopolis as the jewel of the Black Belt.”

Collins also noted that Caldwell was the original voice of Demopolis Tiger Football, among numerous other accomplishments and activities.

Caldwell thanked the crowd, praising the people of the city for making the City of the People great. “I did not accomplish anything by myself,” the former Mayor said. “It was done by the people of Demopolis. Demopolis is, in my opinion, the only place to be.”

Also honored at Monday’s event were Citizen of the Year Chuck Smith. “I see a lot of friends in the crowd tonight, but I really see a lot of family,” Smith said. “I’ve learned a lot from y’all. We’ve got a lot of great opportunities in Demopolis – some great things are coming.”

Demopolis businessman Ben Sherrod received the Chamber Volunteer of the Year honor. “This should be a group award,” Sherrod said. “So many people give their time and talents to this city. And if you’re not volunteering, you need to.”

Recognized as Business of the Year was Vowell’s Fresh Market. Accepting on behalf of the business, store manager Dondi Rohr told the audience, “We’re really glad to be here in Demopolis. We appreciate all the support the community has given us.”

Chamber Executive Director Jenn Tate said this year’s Business of the Year “really feeds this community.”

Also honored was Community Spirit Award recipient Deana Pritchett, who raised more than $12,000 for various causes, according to Chamber outgoing President John Scales, who passed the gavel to incoming President Elizabeth Etheridge at the event’s conclusion.