Dayton Chamber recognizes top members, volunteers at annual gala

Ann Marie Miller is the 2021 Volunteer of the Year for the Dayton Chamber of Commerce. Miller (center) is the executive director for the Dayton Community Development Corporation and has been assisting the Chamber over the last year. Pictured with her are Chamber Board President Jordan Thibodeaux and Chamber Director Jessica Sims.

The Dayton Chamber of Commerce announced its awards for volunteer, ambassador, service business and retail business of the year at a masquerade ball on Saturday at the Dayton Community Center.

Ann Marie Miller, the executive director for the Dayton Community Development Corporation, was named the 2021 Volunteer of the Year. Over the last year, Miller has assisted the Chamber as it transitioned through a change in leadership with its new director, Jessica Sims.

“Ann joined the DCDC in 2019 but has focused her entire professional career on economic development,” said Dayton Chamber President Jordan Thibodeaux in announcing the award.

Originally from Oklahoma, Miller is a registered tribal citizen of the Chickasaw Nation. She has spent her life dedicated to the spirit of volunteerism, which began at an early age. When she was 9, she was presented with a Governor’s Commendation for her work with the Governor’s Easter Egg Hunt for the Blind.

“Her dedication to Dayton is seen by her willingness to lend a hand to others and volunteering to assist without being asked,” Thibodeaux said.

She volunteers on a regional and national level as she serves as a board member for both the Southern Economic Development Corporation and the International Economic Development Corporation.

“She mentors young professionals in her free time and encourages them to pursue their professional dreams,” Thibodeaux said. “When not working or volunteering, Ann enjoys spending time in the great outdoors. She is an avid athlete who not only played semi-professional kickball but has run numerous half-marathons and full marathons, and an ultra marathon.”

August Blush Boutique was picked as the 2021 Retail Business of the Year for the Dayton Chamber of Commerce. Pictured left to right are Chamber Board President Jordan Thibodeaux, Keene and Chamber Director Jessica Sims.

The 2021 Retail Business of the Year is August Blush Boutique, owned by Gabrielle Keene. The business was started by Keene three years ago and is thriving by offering sophisticated and chic clothing options for women.

“Gabby believes in being a hometown girl and doing what she loves,” Thibodeaux said.

JTT Towing and Storage was recognized as the 2021 Service Business of the Year during the Dayton Chamber of Commerce’s annual gala. Pictured left to right are Chamber Director Jessica Sims, Ashley and Jeff Johnson, owners of JTT Towing and Storage, and Jordan Thibodeaux, Chamber board president.

JTT Towing and Storage is the 2021 Service Business of the Year for the Dayton Chamber of Commerce. Owned by Jeff and Ashley Johnson, JTT Towing and Storage was started in 2013 as a towing business. In January 2019, the business moved to Dayton, where storage rentals were added.

JTT now operates a fleet of six trucks and is continuing to grow, Thibodeaux said in announcing the award.

“Jeff has said from the beginning that JTT is a family. As a family-owned business, they treat their employees as such. That is not where the family atmosphere stop. Many times when someone has to call a tow truck driver, it’s on one of the worst days of their lives. Jeff has always made it a point to be kind, caring and respectful, to be a good listener in order to provide the highest level of care and service to his customers,” Thibodeaux said.

Norma Stephens (center) with Texas Diamond Realty is the 2021 Ambassador of the Year for the Dayton Chamber of Commerce. Pictured with her are Dayton Chamber Board President Jordan Thibodeaux and Chamber Director Jessica Sims.

The 2021 Ambassador of the Year is Norma Stephens with Texas Diamond Realty. Though she only joined the chamber a little more than a year ago, Stephens has thrown herself into chamber volunteerism.

Tommy and Wanda Crayton, who were not in attendance on Saturday, were also recognized as the newest members of the Dayton Chamber Hall of Fame. The Craytons, longtime residents of Dayton, were a key part in starting the Chamber two decades ago.

“They were highly active in the Chamber until Tommy’s accident. They had to cut back on attending events. They have continued to support the Chamber over the years. They have also been active in the Dayton Historical Society. We thank them for their commitment to our community,” Thibodeaux said.

Thibodeaux also recognized the outgoing Chamber board members – Kory Whitley, Charlotte Mercer, Doug Crayton and Kim Mulkey – and the incoming board members – Gabrielle Keene, Emily Forster, Jimmy Cullars, Bill Monk and Sherisa Hoy. They will serve alongside Chamber President Jordan Thibodeaux, Chamber Vice President Lucas Gaskamp, Chamber Secretary Howie Howeth and board members Tammy Alexander, Amanda Wessels, Meadow Noyer, Sherry Schmidt, Sherisa Hoy, Nellie Lunsford and Dr. Constance Onemany.

Thibodeaux announced that Staci Wise, the assistant director, is stepping down to spend more time with her family. He also encouraged Chamber members to continue supporting each other.

“This year is certainly going to be filled with a lot of challenges. Anyone sitting here knows what’s happening around our community, especially with our small businesses. As the Chamber, we are here to help you grow your businesses. We are here to help you be the best you can be,” he said.

The awards banquet was made possible through the support of Chicken Express, Precision Lawns, Thriftee Food Center, Sullins and Johnson attorneys at law, Chambers Health, MobilOil Credit Union, Liberty County Farm Bureau-Baret Stephenson, Dayton Community Development Corporation, Houston Methodist Hospital, August Blush Boutique, The Broken Plank, Entergy, Mainframe 24-Hour Wrecker, Williamson Propane and Domino’s Pizza.

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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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