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It is one of the best-known, and most respected, honors in the area. Certainly the highest individual honor given by the Greater Mount Airy Chamber of Commerce, and one that has a history dating back nearly six decades.

It is the chamber’s Citizen of the Year Award, and the deadline to nominate folks for consideration this year is fast approaching. December 8 is the final day area residents can nominate a person for recognition.

“The first one was given in 1962,” said Randy Collins, executive director of the chamber. “The chamber was founded in 1959, they have presented one every year for nearly 60-some years.”

Collins said the award is meant to recognize an individual who “has done a lot to serve their community, on a lot of different levels.” He said, given that it is a chamber award, the recipient has generally been someone active in the business community, but he said the recognition is really about “overall service to the community…perhaps someone who has gone overlooked.”

For those wishing to nominate someone, Collins said the nomination form can be found online at If a person wishes to make a nomination and cannot do so electronically, he said it is fine for the nominator to hand-deliver or mail a typed or written nomination.

“Tell us their story,” he advised of what to include. “We really rely on these nominations to tell us the story. A lot of people who have gotten the award over the years, you just mention their name and you know what they’ve done. But there are a lot of unsung heroes over the years, that not everyone knows their story.”

He said the winner does not have to be a chamber member, but they are looking for someone from Mount Airy, Surry County, or from the towns in Surry — Pilot Mountain, Dobson, and Elkin.

Collins said generally the chamber gets eight to ten nominations every year, although some years there are more. So far, he said three or four have been submitted. Once the nomination deadline passes, he said a committee will review every submission and choose one winner.

“The difficult part on this…there are so many people who are deserving, it’s difficult every year to choose. And, there’s many people who should be nominated who never are. We want to encourage people to nominate someone in the community that you feel is way overdue for recognition.”

While there are no specific criteria for nominees, the award has “generally been for a lifetime of work…These are people who have spent a lifetime serving their community in some way, or certainly for a long period to time. We don’t put any parameters on that, we accept all nominations.”

The winner is named during the chamber’s annual meeting in January, and Collins said officials try to keep it a secret until the announcement.

In 2020, David Rowe, who has since passed away, was named the award winner. He was co-founder of Smith-Rowe, LLC and former Mayor of Mount Airy.

The first winner, in 1962, was Joe Johnson Sr. Winners since then include: 1963 Archie Carter, 1964 John E. Woltz, 1965 Floyd Pike, 1966 CB Roberson, 1967 Dr. J. Dale Simmons, 1968 George A. and Marguerite Kallenbach, 1969 Rev. James Powell, 1970 Jim Grimes, 1971 Frank Smith, 1972 CB Roberson, 1973 James E. Johnson, 1974 Jerry Beverly;

1975 Stan Rogge, 1976 Bill Breedlove, 1977 Don Nance, 1978 Larry Wright, 1979 George Summerlin, 1980 Swanson Richards, 1981 Steve and Mary Petlitz, 1982 Floyd Rees, 1983 Bobby Galyean, 1984 Jack Zonneveld, 1985 Barbara Summerlin, 1986 Tanya Jones and Zack Blackmon, 1987 David Pruett, 1988 Thurman Watts, 1989 Ruth Minick;

1990 Richard Vaughn, 1991 Howard Woltz Jr., 1992 Ann Vaughn, 1993 Jim Andrews, 1994 Teresa Lewis, 1995 John Springthorpe III, 1996 Gene Rees, 1997 Burke Robertson, 1998 Susan Ashby, 1999 Jack Greenwood, 2000 Dr. Wilford Lyerly, 2001 Gary York, 2002 Pat Gwyn Woltz, 2003 Ed Woltz, 2004 Craig and Michele Hunter, 2005 Sandy Beam;

2006 Marion Venable, 2007 Virginia Rogers, 2008 Mike Bowman, 2009 Kate Appler, 2010 Charlie and Ed Shelton, 2011 Carol Burke, 2012 Deidre Rogers, 2013 Alan Connolly, 2014 Berta Glenn Springthorpe, 2015 Ben Cooke, 2016 Catrina Alexander, 2017 Robert Moody , 2018 John Priddy. 2019 Curtis Taylor, and 2020 David Rowe.

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