Every year, the Liberty-Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce honors two outstanding residents of Liberty and Dayton who have made major contributions to their communities through exemplary service. This year’s 45th Annual Awards Banquet was held on Friday, April 23, at the Dayton Community Center.
Selected as this year’s Citizen of the Year for Liberty, Dennis Beasley was unable to attend due to a hospitalization following heart surgery. In his stead was his son, Troy, who connected his father to the awards ceremony through a video chat. A councilman for the City of Liberty, Beasley’s award was announced by his peer on council, Diane Huddleston Driggers.
Beasley is a graduate of Liberty High School where he excelled in playing the trombone in band. Following in his father’s footsteps, he joined the Liberty Fire Department and was named an engine captain before he had his driver’s license.
“He and his father served side by side, helping Liberty through several horrific disasters – incidents such as multiple train derailments, a massive fire and explosion at John Hebert’s Gulf Distributorship and a tragic church bus accident that killed 13 people one foggy night in Devers,” said Driggers, reading from prepared notes. “He continued his fire department service for 34 years, attaining the position of assistant chief.”
Beasley was employed by Mississippi Chemical at the Port of Liberty and quickly became the general manager. It was there he became a staunch advocate of the port and its potential as a waterway, she continued. He served on the Port of Liberty Commission for years.
In 1999, he ran for Liberty City Council and won, and has remained on council since then. In those 22 years of service to the citizens of Liberty, Beasley worked on some major projects, including the construction of a levee system that protects the city during major flood events, bringing jobs to the community by helping to secure the purchase of the old National Pipe and Tube by the Boomerang Corporation.
“He was proud to see the completion of the new police department and fire department since he believes that public safety is the number one priority for a community. He was also happy to see the purchase of Liberty’s first ladder truck. Maybe the kid in him gets a smile seeing such a beautiful apparatus,” Driggers said.
In addition to serving on council, Beasley also has served as president of the Liberty Community Development Corporation for 13 years and has volunteered many hours to the Chamber and his church.
“He has always believed that if you want things better, get involved and get your hands dirty. He is not a public servant, he is a servant leader. He wants to serve. He loves to serve and he wants our community to thrive,” she said.
The Dayton Citizen of the Year is C.D. Williams. A lifelong resident of Dayton, Williams is a local State Farm agent who is dedicated to enhancing the quality of service for his clients, according to the Chamber notes that were read by Chamber Director Andrew Landry.
“Everyone who knows C.D. knows how important his faith is to him. He has spent countless hours volunteering, serving as youth leader, worship leader and currently as teacher and board member at Dayton First Assembly of God. He even steps in to entertain the toddlers and give the nursery volunteers a break. The little ones love him,” Landry continued.
Williams is the founder of the Ryan “Batman” Williams Foundation named for his late son. With the help of his wife, Theresa, and brother-in-law and sister-in-law, Mark and Bridget Sjolander, they have raised more than $300,000 for neuroblastoma research. He also is known for delivering care packages to Texas Children’s Hospital for the “little superheroes fighting against cancer” and is the Journey Fellowship’s liaison for an annual toy drive.
Williams volunteers his time on the Dayton Community Development Corporation board and the Dayton ISD Board of Trustees.
“He sings at community events, including the Community Thanksgiving Service and the Spirit of Christmas Tree Lighting. He was an Elvis impersonator at a junior high choir concert and once surprised [Dayton ISD Superintendent] Dr. Jessica Johnson with his own rendition of Tom Cruise’s Risky Business dance scene at the school district’s convocation. He visits Colbert Elementary and reads to preschool students. He has even been an announcer at the DHS Powder Puff game and auctioneer at Project Grad. He is always willing to step in and lend a hand,” Landry read from the notes.
Lifetime achievement awards were also presented to Bill Buchanan, owner of the former radio station, KSHN, and William “Bill” Haynie, who ran a successful accounting business in the Liberty area until his wife’s death in 2020. Chamber President Mary Ann Campbell was also recognized for her many years of service to the Chamber.
The Chamber also acknowledged the passing of the three people who were former citizens of the year – John J. Hebert (Citizen of the Year for Liberty, 1983), Joe Harris (Citizen of the Year for Dayton, 1976) and State Rep. John Otto (Citizen of the Year for Dayton, 2011).
The title sponsor for the banquet was Liberty-Dayton Regional Medical Center. Other sponsors were TAYCo Farms, Clearant Credit Card Processing, Sullins & Johnston, Attorneys at Law, Allegiance Bank, Dayton Electric Co., Entergy, First Liberty National Bank, Houston Methodist Baytown Hospital, Magnolia Place Health Care, Resale Shack, River Rock Resort, Texas First Bank, Thrif-Tee Food Center, Truckville Auto Dealers, Whataburger, Allison Funeral Service, Bill Buchanan and Tiffany York families, CenterPoint Entergy, MobilOil Credit Union, Superior Storage and Van Deventer Realtors.