Steve Jones, second from right, was announced as the Citizen of the Year recipient during the Greater Orange Area Chamber of Commerce’s Annual Dinner Meeting on Tuesday night at Sunset Grove Country Club in Orange. Pictured, from left to right are, Lanie Brown of Congressman Brian Babin’s office, his wife, Kay, Jones, and award presenter, Gisela Houseman. Photo by Tommy Mann Jr.

By Tommy Mann Jr. – For The Record

The Greater Orange Area Chamber of Commerce held its Annual Dinner Meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 1, at Sunset Grove Country Club in Orange and presented several awards to local businesses, groups and individuals, which helped make 2015 a success.

The most prestigious award presented by the Greater Orange Area Chamber of Commerce is the Citizen of the Year Award. The 2015 recipient of the award on Tuesday night was Steve Jones, the latest in a long line of recipients since the award was first presented to Cecil Nance in 1963.

Gisela Houseman, the previous Citizen of the Year recipient, presented the award to Jones. It did not take long to figure out whom she was describing during her speech, as she referenced his life-long dedication to protecting the community as a law enforcement offficer of 34 years, before retiring as a Major with the Orange Police Department in 2009.

Jones has a reputation for giving back to the community with his involvement in many activities, such as the annual Christmas parade, the gumbo cookoff, the Mardi Gras parade, and, most recently, his efforts with the Bassmaster Elite Series fishing tournaments in 2013 and 2015.

“He’s a man of great character and integrity,” Houseman proclaimed as she introduced Jones.

Jones made his way to the podium with his wife, Kay, by his side, while fighting back his emotions as he addressed the audience.

“I don’t know what to say,” Jones said with joyous tears in his eyes while trying to make a joke. “I’m good at standing in the background and letting (Bassmaster Elite Series event organizers) John (Gothia) and David (Jones) take all the credit. Seriously, I just want to say thank you to everyone.”

Cindy Mims, the outgoing Ambassador Chairperson, presented Life Ambassador Awards to Amie Comeaux, the incoming Ambassador Chairperson, and T.W. Permenter for their years of dedication and service to the Greater Orange Area Chamber of Commerce as ambassadors. Winners of this award must have served at least eight years as an ambassador to qualify. Mims then presented the Ambassador of the Year Award to Rose Simar.

Dean Granger, the outgoing Chairman of the Board, presented the Chairperson of the Year Award to Tad McKee of the Stark Foundation. This was McKee’s second consecutive year to receive the award.

Other awards presented on the night included the Non-Profit Community Service Award to Orange Christian Services and accepted by its director, Judy Jensen; and the Business Community Service Award to Bridgefield Electrical Services and its owner, Chad Havens.

As his last official act, Granger then presented incoming chairperson Maureen McAllister with the customary orange blazer, which is proudly worn by members of the Greater Orange Area Chamber of Commerce, and officially passed the gavel to her as she assumes the leadership position for 2016.

“Dean’s theme for this past year was ‘Believe,’ and I think that was a great choice,” McAllister said. “I think my choice for a theme is a great follow-up to that, and it’s ‘Make It Happen.’ Who knows what the future holds for Orange County? If we work together, we can make it work. If we work together, we make it grow. If we work together, then we can make it happen.”