The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

Triumph and tragedy

Clovis chamber presents awards


January 20, 2018

Tony Bullocks

The Clovis High School marching band kicks off the night's entertainment Friday during the Clovis/Curry County Chamber of Commerce's 2018 Annual Awards Banquet at the Clovis Civic Center.

CLOVIS — Transitions, triumphs and altruism in the face of tragedy marked the evening, as the Clovis/Curry County Chamber of Commerce awarded its best and brightest.

A celebration marked #WEARECLOVIS permeated the ceremony at the Clovis Civic Center, which saw outgoing Chamber President David Robinson pass the gavel to Gail Tarson and 27th Special Operations Wing Commander Col. Stewart Hammons speak about the #CannonStrong movement that happened following a March training accident that claimed the lives of three Cannon personnel.

Ladona Clayton, a city commissioner as well as superintendent of Clovis Christian Schools, was named citizen of the year — one of nine awards given to 11 community members. Clayton was credited for chairing a task force commissioned to provide recommendations for a master water assurance plan for the city. The work of nearly a year, Robinson said, meant 20-hour weeks for Clayton beyond her normal duties at CCS — which under her guidance has received numerous accreditations and established the state's only five-star licensed preschool in the area.

The chamber's business of the year was Leal's, a restaurant that is more than accustomed to receiving recognition. The 2016 New Mexico Restaurant Association's restaurateur of the year, Laura Leal, was credited for mentoring Clovis' young professionals and for serving both on the chamber's board of directors and Clovis Community College's Board of Trustees. Leal is also credited with making the first donation to a victim's memorial fund following the August shooting at the Clovis-Carver Public Library.

The industry of the year, chosen by the Clovis Industrial Development Corporation, was Southwest Cheese. The plant, which provides more than 350 jobs to the area, has recently undergone a $100 million expansion, and is credited as a community partner both for working with the city of Clovis on an effluent water reuse program and various donations of both money and cheese products to charities and nonprofit events and fundraisers.

Individuals awarded during Friday's banquet included:

• Vincent Soule, young professional of the year. The Young Professionals of Clovis voted Soule to receive the award for myriad reasons, including his volunteer efforts, his service in his professional career with the Eastern Plains Council of Governments and his recent efforts to serve the city's planning and zoning commission and the chamber's ambassador program.

• Helen Casaus, ambassador of the year. The award, voted on by previous winners, highlighted Casaus' volunteer hours for numerous chamber functions and her work on approximately a dozen committees and organizations with her go-to saying, "Let's get this done." Casaus also serves as a city commissioner in District 3.

• Misty Bertrand, volunteer of the year. Bertrand, who manages the Civic Center, coordinated efforts to move youth library functions to the Civic Center in the wake of the library shooting and organized a board game drive for the library. Other volunteer efforts credited to Bertrand include blood and food drives, vigils, holiday meal delivery for the Lighthouse Mission and the Salvation Army Red Kettle Kick-off.

• Janice Jones and Jean Masters were selected as co-winners for Cannon community partner of the year. Both serve as chamber ambassadors and serve as family and victim advocates. The Hartley House board members have also raised more than $30,000 for the organization in the last two years.

• Stacey Martin, a former chamber president, received the Ken Huey Patriot Award. Martin, who served as president the year Cannon was placed on, and eventually removed from, the Base Realignment and Closure list, serves on the Chief of Staff Civic Leader Committee and has annually supported efforts such as the single airman's Christmas party.

• Richard and Geri Gomez received the Heart Award, designated for an individual who dedicates extraordinary time to serve underprivileged, youth, elderly or local charitable causes. "Through their excellent daily work and support over these many years," Robinson said, "this mission has greatly expanded from its humble beginnings and now has a men's shelter, a women's shelter, and, they provide daily meals to those in need."

• Bill Mitchell received the lifetime achievement award for a career that spanned countless facets of Clovis business. A former owner/operator for Bell's Men's Store and Clovis Insulation and a salesman for A&M Building Systems, Mitchell is no stranger to establishing small business. He created Clovis Metal Buildings in his own garage, and used one of those buildings to build a small storage facility called A-Key. It has since expanded, with the help of business partner and son-in-law Ric Justus, to become three storage facilities, a document management business and a car wash.


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