Thomas Hester, Jr., lifelong Henderson native, Vance County Commissioner and local businessman, was named Citizen of the Year at the 80th annual Henderson-Vance County Chamber of Commerce Banquet held in the Civic Center of Vance-Granville Community College on Feb 1.
The 2016 Citizen of the Year recipient Pete O’Geary presented the prestigious award, which honors an individual who has made a positive impact for the betterment of the community through personal involvement and contribution. “The Citizen of the Year Award is very special. The honor is earned by an individual who has made a significant contribution and demonstrated a commitment to the advancement of Henderson and Vance County,” said O’Geary.
An anonymous committee selects the honored citizen and the name of the recipient is closely guarded until announced at the chamber banquet.
Prior to announcing the name of the 2017 recipient, O’Geary gave a brief background of Hester’s life and service to his community. “As a product of our Vance County Schools, our recipient was very well-prepared for higher education. Driven by an instinctive passion for success and never satisfied with average, our recipient enlisted and successfully completed training in the Army Officer Candidate School. A love of country that was nurtured and fortified through upbringing, education and training, formed the foundation for a lifetime of civil service and a passion for giving-back to his beloved Vance County community,” said O’Geary.
O’Geary continued by listing several of Hester’s community achievements including:
- Chairman of the Henderson Heart Fund Drive
- Committee Chair of the Henderson Cancer Drive
- Supporter of the Vance County Relay for Life
- Chairman of the United Way Campaign
- Member of the United Way’s Board of Directors
- Advocate for the construction of the H Leslie Perry Memorial Library and Embassy Cultural Center Foundation
- President of the Henderson Rotary Club
- President of the KERR-TAR Council of Regional Government
- District Chairperson of the Henderson-Vance Boy Scouts of America Fundraiser
- President of the Henderson RBC Centura Bank Board of Advisors and Trustees
- Board Director of the Vance County Public School Foundation
“Coupled with vast community involvement endeavors, our recipient is an influential change-agent for the advancement of economic development in Vance County and rural North Carolina. Some significant accomplishments involve the powerful use of relationship-building skills, which brought Mako Medical Services to Henderson; coordinating efforts that motivated the MR Williams, MARS Pet Food, and ProfiiForm corporations to expand their operations in Henderson and Vance County; and, relationship-building talents that helped attract 3HC Home Health and Hospice Care to Henderson,” O’Geary said of Hester.
Hester has also led the Henderson-Vance Economic Development Committee as its elected Board Chair and served on the North Carolina Golden Leaf Board of Directors and North Carolina Rural Infrastructure Authority. He was also recognized with the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, North Carolina’s highest civilian award.
O’Geary concluded his speech by stating that the 2017 recipient “has selflessly given of his time, talent and treasure to make Henderson and Vance County a better place. Please join me in congratulating our Chamber of Commerce 2017 Citizen of the Year recipient, Tommy Hester.”
A visibly touched Hester and wife Jenny took the stage surrounded by their two children, family members and guests. “I’m caught without words, and that’s hard for a politician,” said Hester. Hester thanked his wife, his children and his long-time assistant for their support.
Hester also told the crowd that he feels the community has really moved into the 21st century and sees great things for the future. “John F. Kennedy said ‘ask not what your country can do for, ask what you can do for your country.’ I think we can paraphrase that to say ask not what your community can do for you, ask what you can do for your community,” said Hester.
John Barnes, president of the Henderson-Vance Chamber of Commerce concluded the presentation by saying, “Tommy, your contributions to make Henderson and Vance County a better place to live, work and play are equaled by few others. The membership of the Henderson-Vance Chamber of Commerce is proud to recognize you as our 2017 Citizen of the Year.”
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