Dayton Chamber holds Cuba-inspired gala to recognize top business, community leaders

Chicken Express is the Dayton Chamber of Commerce Retail Business of the Year. The award was announced at Saturday's chamber gala at the Dayton Community Center. Pictured left to right are District Manager Roland Holmes, Manager Stephanie Jinkerson, Franchise Owner Jon Lee, Chamber President-Elect Tammy Alexander, General Manager Jefferson Abney and Manager Jacqueline Saucedo.

By Vanesa Brashier,

The atmosphere in the Dayton Community Center Saturday night was vibrant for the Dayton Chamber of Commerce’s Havana Nights gala to honor the city’s top businesses and volunteers. Men donned fedoras and guayabera shirts, and women wore brightly-colored dresses and flowers in their hair as they were treated to Cuban-inspired foods and dances.

While the party atmosphere was plenty of reason to attend the event, the purpose was to see which businesses and individuals were selected for the chamber’s top honors of the year. It was also a time to recognize the chamber’s incoming and outgoing board members.

Dr. John Johnson, mayor pro-tem for the city and outgoing board president, handed over the chamber board mantle to Kim Mulkey, the current board president. Mulkey then presented Johnson with a honorary gavel that was donated for the occasion by State Rep. Ernest Bailes (Texas House District 18).

Arlene Langham, senior vice president of Allegiance Bank, and Leslie Herndon, an Edward Jones investment adviser, were named to the chamber’s hall of fame. Langham, Dayton Mayor Jeff Lambright and Josephine Perry were recognized as outgoing members of the board of directors.

The award for Retail Business of the Year was presented to Jonathan Lee and his staff at the Chicken Express in Dayton. Open for only two years in Dayton, Chicken Express has “jumped right in to support the Dayton Chamber,” Mulkey said.

Frank’s Collision Repair was named the Service Business of the Year.

“After opening in 2008, they quickly became loyal members and supporters of the Dayton Chamber of Commerce,” Mulkey said. “They are highly respected and a preferred body shop in Dayton.”

The award for Dayton Rotarian of the Year went to Kory Whitley, who works for Frank’s Collision Repair. In 2009, Whitley helped open a Dayton location for Frank’s Collision Repair on Winfree St.

“After outgrowing the Winfree shop and moving to the current location on Highway 90, Kory joined the Rotary Club in 2011,” Mulkey said. “At the chamber banquet in January 2013, he was awarded the Outstanding Sales Achievement for 78 percent sales increase. Since then, Kory has been involved in several different community functions including the Dayton Chamber, becoming one of the board of directors of the chamber.”

Whitley served as sergeant at arms for the Rotary Club and is the president-elect for the club.

The Dayton Noon Lion of the Year is Wes Williamson, who has been a member of the Lions club for more than 20 years and is currently club secretary. He also is a member of the Dayton Historical Society and First United Methodist Church of Dayton.

Tyler Head is the Dayton Police Officer of the Year. Head is a combat veteran who served three tours of duty to Iraq and one to Afghanistan with the U.S. Marine Corps. After leaving military service, he completed a peace officer academy at the University of Houston-Downtown in 2016 and joined Dayton Police Department in 2017.

“Tyler fell in love with his career change and the people who were involved in it,” Mulkey said. “Tyler sees a long-lasting career with Dayton Police Department for him and his 8-year-old son, Skyler.”

Josh Alley danced his way to the podium after his name was called for Dayton Volunteer Firefighter of the Year. He joined Dayton Volunteer Fire Department in 2009.

“During the last 10 years, he has demonstrated an outstanding work ethic and an unwavering positive attitude toward both fellow firefighters and the citizens of the community,” Mulkey said. “He loves to teach students about fire safety at our local schools.”

Allen is a member of the First Responders and Liberty County Haz-mat, serving not only Dayton, but Liberty County as well.

“He’s known for following the storms, helping in clean-up and restoring the devastated communities,” Mulkey said. “He possesses all the qualities of a leader.”

J. Oliver is the Liberty County EMT of the Year. He also serves as a volunteer firefighter for Tarkington VFD and a deputy constable. Oliver has worked for Liberty County EMS as an in-charge paramedic since April 2014. In 2018, he was promoted to step-up supervisor and now assists with the clinical operations of the organization.

“Over the course of his career, he has worked for various 9-1-1 ambulance services and an emergency room as a paramedic, as well as a flight paramedic for a fixed-wing air ambulance service,” Mulkey said.

Amanda Wessels is the Ambassador of the Year for the Dayton Chamber of Commerce.

The Dayton Chamber of Commerce Volunteer of the Year is Tammy Alexander, the chamber’s president-elect. Alexander is a 1986 graduate of Dayton High School and has worked for Dayton Police Department for 14 years. She is married to Dayton Police Lt. Shane Burleigh. The couple has five children and two grandchildren.

“Tammy is always there when needed. She serves on many committees and has attended 99 percent, if not 100 percent, of our ribbon cuttings last year,” Mulkey said.

Lifetime Dayton resident Patsy Arnold was selected as Senior Center Volunteer of the Year.

“You can always find her at the Dayton Community Senior Center, lots of times washing dishes in the kitchen,” Mulkey said. “She is a member of many clubs – Stitch and Chatter, Priscilla [and] Lakata, and plays bridge weekly. She’s been a member of the Methodist Church since she was a year old. She currently attends First United Methodist Church of Dayton.”

The chamber banquet was catered by Marsala’s Italian Grill in Huffman. Entertainment was provided by dancers with Salrica Dance School in Houston.

The event sponsors were Sterling Funeral Home and Chicken Express. Other sponsors included Post Oak Bank, a division of Allegiance Bank; Thrif-Tee Food Center; Precision Lawns; Houston Methodist Hospital in Baytown; Health Center of Southeast Texas; Prosperity Bank; Dayton Community Development Center; Hancock Mortgage Partners; Josephine Perry; Tarver Abstract; First Liberty National Bank; Kendall Homes; CW Tint; Hartz Chicken Buffet; Mainframe 24-Hour Wrecker; Entergy; Texas Diamond Realty; Re/Max Eastside; The Broken Plank; and the many silent auction sponsors.

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Before creating Bluebonnet News in 2018, Vanesa Brashier was a community editor for the Houston Chronicle/Houston Community Newspapers. During part of her 12 years at the newspapers, she was assigned as the digital editor and managing editor for the Humble Observer, Kingwood Observer, East Montgomery County Observer and the Lake Houston Observer, and the editor of the Dayton News, Cleveland Advocate and Eastex Advocate. Over the years, she has earned more than two dozen writing awards, including Journalist of the Year.

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