The Panama City Beach Chamber of Commerce’s celebratory Annual Awards Dinner was truly a night of recognition as it honored seven outstanding Beach Chamber members. On Thursday, February 19, 2015 at Edgewater Beach & Golf Resort, the evening was themed around the iconic 1865 novel, Alice in Wonderland, written by English author, Lewis Carroll. The Beach Chamber would like to give another appreciatory thank you to the Annual Awards Dinner Presenting Sponsors; Edgewater Beach & Golf Resort, Club La Vela, and Burke, Blue, Hutchison, Walter, & Smith, P.A.; and our Gold sponsors: Innovations Federal Credit Union, Beachy Beach Real Estate, Noble Public Adjusting Group, Sunshine Shuttle, and Centennial Bank.
This prestigious event recognized local citizens for their dedication and accomplishments in the community and with the Beach Chamber. Mike Thomas, Our Pioneer Award winner, has lived in Panama City Beach his entire life and attended the first elementary school on the beach when it opened in 1956, and also graduated from Bay High School. The only time he left the beach was to serve in the army in Vietnam and Panama. He received several medals including the Bronze Star, The Army Commendation Medal, and The Air Medal.
Mike took the first EMT class that was offered at GCCC and also became a certified firefighter and with property donated by the Lahan family and donations established the West End Volunteer Fire Department which stayed there until it was replaced in 2011 by a career staffed county fire station just down the road. He served on the Panama City Beach City Council where he worked to secure the property for the expansion of the baseball fields at Frank Brown Park, and worked with St. Joe to help fulfill a vision of what Pier Park is today.
Mike was elected to the Bay County Commission serving District 5 since 2004. He served on the Bay County Planning Board and currently serves on the Tourist Development Council. While in office, he worked with the other commissioners to build a new jail, a new fire station on the west end of the beach, an emergency operations center, the M. B Miller pier, a new county library, and a new Grand Lagoon bridge, all while keeping our taxes the lowest in the state of Florida. He vehemently supports our military installations, especially NSA-PC, working hard to ensure they continue to be a huge component of this community’s economic engine.
Mike also owns two Panama City Beach businesses, Mike’s Diner& Oyster Bar, and Thomas’s Donut & Snack Shop, which have been staples of the community.
The Past Chairman’s Award was given to 2014 Chairman of the Board, Darren Haiman, for his leadership of the Beach Chamber. Jason Crowe, our HYPE (Helping Young Professionals Evolve) Member of the Year, has remarkable leadership skills as Vice President of Community Bank, dedication to the success of HYPE, and exhibits a conscious commitment to bettering the chamber and community. This year’s Ambassador of the Year, Allison Smith, is that and more. She has been involved with the Beach Chamber since 2013, jumping head first into the Ambassador Committee. Being very involved in our community, she started a charity helping the Children’s Advocacy Center 4 years ago making self-esteem bags. On top of everything else, her high energy, signature blonde curls and infectious smile make her a great Ambassador.
Karen Smith, our 2014 Small Business Person of the Year Award winner, signed the lease for the office that would house her new business, the day before the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill. Although it was a huge setback, she kept her eye on the prize and poured all of her energy into building a service-oriented company. At that time in 2010, she had 3 employees working with her. She currently has over 55 employees working in Panama City Beach at Beachy Beach Real Estate. Her hands-on leadership style has served her business as well as in community service. In addition to being a board member with the PCB Chamber of Commerce, she gives regularly to a multitude of various charities, but she is probably most known for her involvement with Beach Care Services, where she is now serving as President.
Our Humanitarian of the Year is Bubba McCants of Don & Bubba with Counts Real Estate Group. You would be hard-pressed to find another person who puts as much time and effort into serving others, both in his commitment to community and civic organizations as well as utilizing his business to aid in charitable services. He is involved with the Beach Chambers Education Committee – specifically the Mad City Money event – as well as a number of charity organizations including Big Brother Big Sisters of Northwest Florida, Beach Care Services, Toys for Kids, and Junior Achievement. Bubba is also an instrumental part of our Military Welcome Center at the airport, and heavily involved in his church, Northstar.
This year’s President’s Award was given to honor Bubba Waddell. The President’s Award is given out to recognize a Beach Chamber member who has made a lasting, positive impression on the chamber, its staff, board, and the business community. This award is not given out every year, but only when the president feels there was an extraordinary action that an individual displayed. Bubba was a dedicated member for over 20 years and a true friend to everyone he met. He was involved in the success of the chamber’s publications, and also numerous events. There was hardly ever a Friday morning that the chamber staff wouldn’t expect to see his smiling face walking through the door, carrying a bag of donuts and bagels. Regrettably, he lost his long-fought battle with cancer in October and went to be with his Father in Heaven. Bubba was a dear friend and will always be considered special to the chamber.
Again, congratulations to all award winners and thank you to everyone who attended this year’s Annual Awards Dinner.