One of themes for last Thursday’s Donalsonville-Seminole County Chamber of Commerce annual membership meeting, held at the Osceola Event Company inside the historic Osceola Hotel, was all about working together to make today just a little better than yesterday.
That theme was echoed by the selfless actions of this year’s Citizen of the Year recipient, Steve Dickman. He was cited for his efforts to go above and beyond the call of duty of his job description, giving extra time and energy and helping to improve the conditions of Lake Seminole and make the lives of all Seminole County citizens just a little bit better.
Dickman took action to engage lake stakeholders and governmental interests and join together to save Lake Seminole from further decline by controlling the lake’s invasive weeds.
As a successful businessman, and with his experience as an engineer, he enlisted neighbors, and was the driving force in the formation of the Non-profit 501(c)(3) group Stewards of Lake Seminole, an organization created to preserve and enhance Lake Seminole as a valuable resource for all its stakeholders.
Dickman commented, “I am totally surprised, honored and humbled by the award. So many people are involved in helping the Stewards of Lake Seminole affect a positive change for our lake and consequently our communities. Our team of officers, directors and volunteers share their time, knowledge and passion for the lake without reward. It is important to know that none of our efforts are possible without the support and partnership with the U.S.A.C.E. from the local ACF River Projects team to Colonel Jeremy Chapman in Mobile, AL. The Corps often gets a bad rap. Their activities are limited by their funding and that can only come from the Federal government. Congressman Bishop and his team have been, and continue to be, supportive of our efforts. As a result, the lake will benefit from an additional $500,000 funding to the Environmental Research and Development Center this year and a $1,080,000 for Lake Seminole is awaiting final budget approvals by the Senate and the President. Equally important is the work our State Representative Gerald Greene and State Senator Sam Watson have done to generate State funding to fight Cuban bulrush and other invasives. Recently our Seminole County Board of Commissioners approved funding for mechanical equipment to help reclaim and restore access to lost fisheries and wildlife habitat. Together, the support of our federal, state and local governments has been phenomenal, and this support is the direct result of our 254 sponsors who have personally invested in preserving and enhancing our lake and communities. It has been said, ‘It takes a community to raise a child.’ It also takes a community to save a lake. Lake Seminole is our ‘Golden Goose.’ Visit us a stewardsoflakeseminole.com”
The evening, attended by almost 200 local citizens, began with some social networking time, comments from Congressman Sanford Bishop, and recognition of the students in this year’s Youth Leadership class. The dinner, which was catered by Gay’s Foods, was the enjoyed by all.
The featured speaker for the event was Mary Beth Brownlee, former director of One Sumter and the current director of One Valdosta-Lowndes, an organization created to serve as a catalyst for growth and change. Brownlee spoke on the importance of teamwork and utilizing the individual talents of each person in the community to move forward more effectively.
Pictured above are Farm Family of the Year, John, Haley, Beau and Caroline Hanna, Mark and Deanna Hanna and Hudson and Charlton Hanna
Farm Family of the Year
Following Brownlee’s presentation, Chamber President Sarah Avery recognized the outgoing and incoming Board of Directors. Gene Cook and The Seminole County Chapter of Young Farmers presented the Hanna Farming Partnership, consisting of brothers John Willis Hanna and Hudson Mosely Hanna with the 2023 Farm Family of the Year award.
John Willis Hanna graduated Seminole County High School in 2010 as Valedictorian, and from Valdosta State University in 2014, graduating with a degree in Business Management. After graduation, John worked for a farm supply company for a year, then came back home. John now handles the planting and field operation. John and his wife Haley of Colquitt, have two beautiful children Beau and Caroline.
Hudson Mosely Hanna, graduated from Seminole County High School and also Valdosta State University, where he received a degree in business management. After graduating Hudson spent a year working in farm equipment ·sales, before joining the farm partnership. Hudson handles the fertilizer and chemical applications for the farming operation.
Hudson is married to Charlton Reynolds of Bainbridge, they have numerous animals.
Both brothers are involved in crop harvesting.
John and Hudson along with their wives, Haley, and Charlton father Mark and mother Deanna, make up Hanna Farming Partnership.
Pictured: Teacher of the year Brittany Bowen
Teacher of the Year
Seminole County Elementary School Principal Truett Johnson presented the Teacher of the Year to Brittany Bowen. Brittany received her Bachelor’s Degree in Early Childhood Education from Albany State University along with her gifted endorsement. She has taught third grade eight of her first 12 years and has now settled into second grade at SCES. Brittany has really found her niche in second grade and has been a model classroom over the last few years. She has really thrived with teaching her students to read at a fluent level while also enriching their days with creative small group activities. She has served as a mentor to many teachers at SCES over the last four years. Brittney is a member of the school’s impact team and school council.
Brittany is married to Dustin Bowen and has two sons, John Emmett who is five years old and William who is eight months. She is a member of the Friendship Methodist Church where she serves as their Director of Family Ministries Team.
After the Teacher of the Year presentation, Seminole County Middle High School Assistant Principal recognized and presented plaques to this year SCMHS’s STAR Student Ashlyn Marie Thompson as its 2024 STAR Student and STAR Teacher Michelle Wingertsahn.
Chamber of Commerce chairman David Maxwell then presented the Citizen of the Year Award to Steve Dickman and the BetterWay Visionary Award was presented to Jamiee Underwood and Victor Hornsby.
Mrs. Avery presented chamber board member Betty Orange with the President’s award and the evening’s closing remarks were presented by chamber chairman Maxwell.