Presiding Cullman County District Judge Kim Chaney was honored Thursday night for his efforts to help local children and their families with the Emma Marie Eddleman Citizenship Award during the annual chamber gala. 

Cullman Economic Development Agency Director Peggy Smith also walked away with the Lucille Galin Public Service Award for her work to grow and develop the county’s industrial landscape, bringing thousands of jobs to local residents. Cullman Eye Specialists and its doctors Romero and Emily Flores were named the Small Business of the Year.

The 73rd Annual Cullman Area Chamber of Commerce Meeting and Gala transformed Stonebridge from a rustic event venue into stately Downton Abbey — the hit PBS drama depicting an English aristocratic family. Attendees — elected officials and leaders of the business community and civic organizations  — donned tuxedo tailcoats, lace dresses, elbow-length gloves, fur stoles and Flapper-inspired headwear to wine and dine.

In introducing Chaney, incoming chamber chair Sammie Danford said the most senior judge’s work would have a profound impact on the lives of children across the county for decades.

“They will be better off because he’s dedicated himself to the least, last and lost,” Danford said.

In accepting his award, Chaney recalled his upbringing as the son of a family that ran a feed mill on Bolte Road.

“They got dirty for a living, and if I’ve been successful in my life, it’s been because I’ve been a reflection of them,” Chaney said. “I have spent the last quarter century going to the courthouse every day trying to help people who go there. I will always try to make Cullman a safe place to live, work and raise a family.”

Chaney also acknowledged his colleagues in District Judge Wells “Rusty” Turner, Presiding Circuit Judge Greg Nicholas and Circuit Judge Martha Williams. He thanked his wife of 35 years, Maureen, and their children for their love and support, joking his wife was more deserving of the award for “living with a politician for the past 35 years.”

Cullman Mayor Max Townson presented Smith her award, praising her for her decades of “outstanding contributions” to the community and for building the CEDA into an organization that’s recognized across the state and nation.

“Lucille Galin epitomized everything about public service, and I never would have thought I would receive this award in her name. It’s very humbling, and I’m very thankful and grateful for it,” Smith said.

Smith also thanked her family for supporting her through many “late nights and missed meetings and holidays” throughout her career.

“I share this award with so many mentors, advisers and past and present administrations,” she said. “I also want to thank the staff I work with, that shares the same goals and vision I do.”

The incoming chamber officers and board members were introduced, and Chamber President Leah Bolin recapped the accomplishments of the past year. The Total Resource Campaign (TRC), the chamber’s main fundraiser, netted $224,300, outgoing TRC Chair Dr. James Thomas announced. This year’s campaign theme will be “Going for the Goal” in time for the 2016 Summer Olympics, said incoming TRC Chair Shirley Quattlebaum.

Keynote speaker Peter Good, whose career in the hospitality industry has been nationally recognized, emphasized the need for businesses to rediscover service by going the “second mile” to make customer experience better.

The most humorous part of the evening came when Bolin introduced a “highlight reel” of the past year’s chamber accomplishments which included outgoing chairman Jason Grimmett singing “Downton Funk,” a parody of the pop hit “Uptown Funk.” The video showed Grimmett dancing and strutting around the chamber in his formal tuxedo alongside snapshots of chamber events.

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